Sunday, June 6, 2010

Need to restrict reality TV

AFTER THE news of live telecast of the terminally ill reality television star Jade Goody’s death, it has sparked off a debate that what should be telecast in the name of reality television? After selling the rights of her marriage, the British TV actress allegedly wished to sell the rights of her death to media for live coverage.

Nowadays, reality TV has become really popular around the world. The audience is taking a lot of interest in real life drama than reel life. And a demand to rein in reality TV has been raised. Now, the question is that should reality TV be controlled by making a law, or TV producers themselves decide to constitute their own rules and regulations.

As the birth of a human being is a matter of joy and happiness, and some science channels show birth of a human child and animals in real way. But, can death, a sorrowful moment be visualized unscripted and dramatically? This is a point of discussion. The person, who is dying and reluctant to sell last moments of his/her life and a large media is ready to buy the rights and huge number of audience want to see it. It is legal or illegal?

Let’s have a glance on the journey of reality TV. The concept of reality TV is not new. When, the idea of live telecast of events and games tournaments had become a hit, then it had been termed as a revolution in the field of science and technology. Meanwhile, live coverage of cricket, football, hockey, tennis and other sports are not considered as reality TV. But wrestling shows could be taken as an exception. It will be incomplete if the on field fights and spat between players are left out. For example during 2006 FIFA world Cup France football star Zinedin Zidan had grabbed the headlines by hitting the Italian striker. In cricket, the controversial Sidney Test has become an ill chapter in the book of the gentleman game. On field quarrel between Australian batsman Andrew Symonds and Indian leg Spinner Harbhajan Singh ruined the image of gentleman’s game. The most acrimonious fight in the wrestling wing between two heavyweights Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield also adjudged as “real life drama.”

Era of Pure Reality TV began with American TV show Big Brother and British show who wants to be a millionaire? The versions of these two are also popular all around the world. In India, Kaun Benega Cororepati and Big Boss changed the face of Indian TV world.

Glimpses of “reality” in Indian Cinema

In 1998 ketan Mehta’s Hiro Hiralal showed how a common man did not want to waste even his death. The main lead actor Nasiruddin Shah in the role of Hiralal was ready to commercialize his death and planned to die publicly. A grand arrangement had been made, and people come to “enjoy” the death of a person.

In 2000 Shah Rukh Khan starrer Phir Bhi Dil hai Hindustani had showed that media and politics are mingled with each other. Live telecast of the execution of terrorist was presented in a dramatic way.

In 2005 Saade Saat Phere, which showed,a real life drama can give a direction to the career of a film industry aspirant. Juhi Chawla and Irfan Khan starrer flick goes one step ahead with the use of “hidden camera” in the house of a joint family to cover an Indian Hindu marriage.

Travel of “reality” on Indian TV

Television is a bigger platform than cinema to present reality and the experience of reality actually exists here. Kaun Banega Crorepati is the first reality game show on Indian television. It was the Indian version of UK game show who wants to be a millionaire? So far, it is the most popularreality TV show with its three editions.

Now a range of reality programmes depicting on TV screen: Indian idol, Big Boss, Roddies, Business Bazzigar, fear factor, Sa re ga ma pa singing challenge, little champ, laughter challenge, lead India, Dus Kadam, Chapper phade ke, Bid Bid boom, Gurukul, dance India dance, Nach Baliye, Antakshari, Bornvita quiz contest among others.

The difference between Cinema and TV is that cinema can be termed as just a medium of “pure entertainment”. One has to go to a cinema hall to buy a ticket to watch the movie of one’s choice. While, TV shows come in our bedroom and drawing room with entertainment, message and education. This segregation is needed in the context covering reality content. TV has big time slots to show the reality in real manner. Here documentary movies can be put in reality TV, but it will be difficult to make a documentary without a script.

Media coverage of reality

When, Prince, a 4-year old boy of Haryana fell into a borewell and was rescued after a struggle of 72 hours, the whole episode was covered live. Taking, another example: a villager announced that he would die on a particular day at a particular time and a TV channel reached there to cover his death, but unfortunately, the man did not die. In an another incident a man set himself ablaze and the reporter captured live shots and the channel showed it without censoring to gain TRP. However, it is still not justified whether the media should remain neutral in covering such incidents or obey social duties.

During the vote of trust in the Parliament, when some MPs stormed into the well showing wads of cash, which they claimed, were given to them to support the motion tainted the image of India abroad.

During the recent Mumbai terror strikes, the media “promised” not to telecast the live coverage of terrorist’s position and the operation of the Indian military. But the situation was not controlled properly. After that, electronic media adopted a resolution to regularize itself.

Coverage of negative and positive things

Big Boss, was being shot for 24 hours, but mostly the show was showed fighting among the members of the house. It seems that nothing good and civilized was happening inside the house of big boss. In Roadies, how many times was the beep heard during every episode of this highly acclaimed reality show. The centre of attraction of these two shows was misbehaviour and cruelty of the participants.

Lack of balanced approach in covering the reality is a matter of criticism and needs attention.

But, the positive angle are also there, recently a news channel organised a campaign, named ‘Greenathon’, a live show to save the environment. It got good response.

Legality vs morality

A stringent law is needed to impose restrictions on reality TV or it’s the responsibility of the TV producer or the audience to decide what to show and what to see.

This is an inflammable debate, if the government will make rules and regulations to control the content of reality TV. It seems to be violation of the Right to Speech and an attack on the freedom of media. So, it is a responsibility of the TV fraternity to sit and think about reality TV shows.

It is also a matter of morality for both the TV media and the audience.