Posted: 29 March 2006 at 7:30am | IP Logged
Reality shows: Regional SMS voting worrying
New Delhi, PTI :
While audience polls through SMS on Reality TV have succeeded in
making this visual medium truly interactive, the emerging fact that not
talent but voting on regional basis decides the winner is a worrying
trend, experts say.
So when a Kashmiri won a contest on a channel, the ULFA is reported
to have put its muscle behind a contestant from the north-east on a
rival channel to make sure that the region finds its share of glory on
reality TV. In another instance when Diya Mirza was on the jury of one
such show, the contestant spoke to her in Telugu, while another thanked
his parent in Marathi.
"It is true that more votes come in from the region of the
contestant, but then all of them face this bias. In that sense all are
on an equal footing," justifies a spokesperson of Sony Television.
Their popular shows 'Indian Idol' and 'Fame Gurukul' garnered close to
5.5 crore votes a piece.
"At our end we have tried to convey through our hosts and judges
that people should vote for the best contestant, irrespective of where
they come from. If people still choose otherwise there is little we can
do." "Regionalism plays a role in promoting a candidate only to some
extent. It cannot stop the real talent from emerging at the top," says
Navjot Singh Sindhu, one of the judges of 'Laughter Challenge' on Star
In the penultimate stage, it's really about choosing between 500
rupee notes. All the contestants are good," says says Ashish Kaul,
Senior VP, Zee TV speaking in the context of 'Sa Re Ga Ma, a show that
raked in 10 crore votes through the course of its run.
Professor Anand Kumar, a political sociologist says that globalisaton is increasingly leading to ethnicisation.
"Earlier people aligned around nationality but with boundaries getting diluted, regional identity has become a rallying point.
For all its faults, it is a welcome relief from the "saas-bahu
serials" which are "full of negativity and "put the nation in a strange
remorseful mood. At least the reality genre is dominated by song and
dance based shows that bring a sense of joy and provide wholesome
family entertainment," Kumar adds.
He further makes the point that owing to a colonial legacy, India
as a society has been "socialized into silence. So either we agree or
keep quiet. At least people are voicing their opinion and taking a
stand." "SMS is a great way of empowering a consumer. This way they
feel connected to the product and can make a choice either in its
favour or reject it," P N Vasanti, Director, Centre for Media Studies
questions the very premise of the Reality TV format saying that
presently, news alone qualifies as reality TV. She goes on to add that
that the programming goal of most of these serials is not to provide a
platform to talent but entertain.
At best, these serials on air are really pre-recorded reality or
rather entertainment packaged as reality. Factors like regional biases,
humble backgrounds and sob-stories are played up to make for compelling
TV. After all, there can be no hero without a villian, she points out.
Another important sub-trend of this genre has been the lack of
women contestants emerging winners unless the format explicitly demands
Vasanti says that it is a part of the larger strategy to sustain
viewer interest. Sony, however, says that they prefer women contestants
for the "glamour quotient. We did try to bring in six men and six women
but people somehow seem to choose the men."
Prof Kumar sees it in a slightly traditional context of
"opportunity, The women on the shows tend to hail from small towns and
appear homely while the men seem to have more personality." Zee on its
part attributes it to the fact that women control the remote in the
house. "Women will win in a situation where there is no vote-in. Women
are women's worst enemies," Kaul says. He says that they are trying to
rectify this by bringing in a show where a people have to vote in for
couples. "This should somewhat negate both the regional slant and the
bias against women."
In the light of these trends and considering that our cultural
sensitivities and reactions are different from the Western formats that
these serials have been borrowed from, is there some tinkering required
? Sony feels that so far the show has done very well and there is no
change required. "The goal of Indian Idol was to provide an icon with
an X factor and charisma. There was a buzz that Amit Sana was more
deserving but the fact is that Abhijeet Sawant has to his credit the
highest selling record in the past five years. Ultimately the consumer
is paying to listen to him."
Kaul warns though that if reality TV formats continue without
changes, it will lead to a disconnect between aspirations of the
channels and the contestants.
Vasanti predicts the death of this genre soon. She says that TV
serials follow a trend-mythology, thrillers, saas-bahu. "I think the
genre will get much worse before it sees its death."