Battle for TRPs

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Friday, November 26, 2010 - 00:12
 
Ritesh K Srivastava
The Observer
 

The Information & Broadcast Ministry’s crackdown on reality shows ‘Bigg Boss’ and ‘Rakhi Ka Insaaf’’ is a welcome step, but I still regret the government for acting so late on the issue. It was only after leading news publications and TV channels launched a campaign against the unhealthy, objectionable and promiscuous content of these shows and several complaints were lodged, did the government swing into action.

In the name of feeding its audience with “unscripted and real activities”, controversial TV programmes like “Bigg Boss” aired on Colors, NDTV Imagine’s “Rakhi Ka Insaaf”, “Emotional Atyachar” telecast on UTV Bindas, MTV’s “Splitsvilla” and “Is Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao” have all showcased highly explicit content.

The format of all these shows are debatable since they display 'fake' content, highly abusive conversations, often muted with a superimposed beep, and indecency in the name of entertaining the audience in the prime time slot.

Given the highly provocative content of these popular shows, the I&B Ministry is absolutely right in censuring them and asking them to discontinue their telecast in the prime time slot, when the entire family’s viewership is maximum.

The transition from daily soap operas to reality shows is probably a decade old and its not that all reality shows display vulgarity and obscenity. In the past we have liked several good reality shows like Boogi Woogie (a dance based programme running successfully for the past 15 years), Zee Tv’s music competition Sa, Re Ga, Ma which has given some very talented singers to the country and not to forget KBC, which has got the entire nation hooked to the TV.

These shows have not only entertained the masses, but promoted family values by tweaking their content so as to match important occasions like Children’s Day, Mother’s Day etc. Probably that’s the reason, why nobody ever complained about the format of these shows.

However, the treatment in shows like 'Bigg Boss' is far different from the 'KBC' and 'Boogie Woogie' where the audience is exposed to uncensored and raunchy pictures, which can erode the traditional norms and ethos practiced in our country.

The mad race to gain highest viewership, which in turn helps the TV channels to generate huge revenue, is probably pushing the production houses to conceive such plots, which would grab maximum eyeballs and evoke controversies.

The programming heads of these entertainment channels are fully aware that the format of these shows are against “good taste and decency”, but they keep pushing it and resort to all sort of cheap marketing gimmicks to promote their channel’s programmes.

The concept of reality shows got a boost with the success of Bollywood starlet Shilpa Shetty in the UK version of the Bigg Boss, which got the jobless actress international acclaim and world-wide publicity. After that several reality shows came up promising never before entertainment and real adventure.

With the mushrooming of reality shows, several small time actors, controversial celebrities, wanted criminals etc. became a part of it; some looking for money and others for publicity. However, with the passage of time many of these shows failed to click with the audience because they lacked novelty. Therefore they started taking recourse to cheap marketing tricks to evoke viewers’ curiosity even at the cost of a negative publicity.

Colors, which became very successful immediately after its launch, is desperate to retain its numero uno position and that has led to the unethical war for TRPs.

In order to keep ahead of competition, the content is tailor made to make it more interesting with concepts like giving “wild card entry” to someone who is send to breed bad blood among the fellow participants.

The scripted first marriage of Sara Khan and Ali Merchant on Bigg Boss, which was later found to be fake and derided by several Muslim bodies as illegal, has left the audiences questioning the “genuine and real claims” of these shows. Among all reality shows, Bigg Boss and Rakhi Ka Insaaf have surely raised many eyebrows due to their highly provocative content.

It is not surprising that several celebrities who earlier participated in Bigg Boss have criticised the shows for being “too vulgar”, “scripted for boosting TRPs” and not fit for family viewing.

These shows have been criticised for being highly insensitive to public sentiments, cultural and moral ethos of our society. Rakhi Sawant, a C-grade actress and sleazy item
number girl, has crossed all limits by humiliating the guests coming on her show with adjectives like “impotent” and “tum to Mallika Sherawat ke bhi baap ho”.

The fact that reality shows are scripted and display fake content is now a known fact and a recent survey conducted by Bombay Times proved that. Nearly, 83.5% respondents said that there is nothing ‘real’ in the reality shows and all are rigged.

In a bid to make their shows more interesting, numerous entertainment channels and production houses plan things in advance and do not even hesitate in cheating the audience. This is probably the reason why reality shows are becoming more synthetic and need artificial resuscitation to sustain them.

What is further surprising to see that big Bollywood stars like Salman Khan, Rajeev Khandelwal etc. and popular small screen actors have readily endorsed these shows either by hosting them or by participating in them.

We all know that the serials in the prime time slot get maximum viewing, so it should be allotted for meaningful programmes which portray the positive side of our societal norms. Some sort of censorship and monitoring of TV programmes is also required to ensure that whatever is shown on TV is fit for family viewing and the general audience.

The advocates of free speech and freedom of expression will chide me for suggesting censorship of films and TV shows, but I would request them to ponder over the long-term consequences of these shows on our society as a whole.

We have all grown up watching mega serials like Buniyaad, Humlog, Nukkad, Mahabharat or Ramayana etc. which not only entertained but also strengthened our family values and promoted social harmony and peace.

There is no denying the fact that the audience is looking for change, but they also want authenticity and some element of truth in reality shows. The task is difficult in these competitive times, but certainly not impossible for the programming heads and the writers to come up with inspiring, entertaining and meaningful stories.



First Published: Friday, November 26, 2010 - 00:12

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