Disney Channel’s Andi Mack broke new ground in October when it included a coming out storyline, the channel’s first, in the show’s second-season premiere.
In the episode, Andi’s friend Cyrus realizes he has a crush on another tween, Jonah, and comes to terms with his sexuality.
While the episode garnered headlines here in the U.S, it raised eyebrows internationally.
The Kenya Film Classification Board banned the show, with director Ezekiel Mutua insisting “attempts to introduce gay programming in Kenya will be met with the full force of the law.”
Now it looks like Disney Channel itself pulled the show across Africa to avoid offending regional sensibilities.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the Disney Channel airs on DStv (Digital Satellite Television), a digital satellite service with some 8 million subscribers. Most are in South Africa and Nigeria, with smaller markets in Kenya, Ghana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mauritius and Tanzania.
DStv aired Andi Mack’s first season but, in a statement, a Disney Channel spokesperson said the network was taking the show off DStv to respect “cultural sensibilities.”
“Disney Channel creates stories that entertain and inspire kids and families and reflect the rich diversity of the human experience,” the spokesperson told The Cape Argus. “While our shows are developed for global audiences, we are committed to respecting each market’s cultural sensibilities, compliance rules and regulations.
“Disney Channel in South Africa serves multiple countries across Africa and the Middle East,” they continued, “each with its own regulations to which we adhere. Accordingly, Andi Mack will not be broadcast through DStv.”
The channel is exploring ways to get the show available to viewers in South Africa, they added. But activists argue pulling the show in Africa means it won’t be seen by the very people who need it most.
“We really should be talking more about these issues,” said Tebogo Nkwane of Transgender and Intersex Africa. “If we don’t educate [children] how will they know how to respond when they encounter someone who is different? It’s borderline discrimination. It portrays that our community is immoral and if the media is not covering these issues how are we supposed to learn?”