Lessons from Reality TV

Some reality TV shows have been asked to be broadcast after 11 pm by the ministry of information and broadcasting, based on public outcry on vulgarity and abusive language in the shows.

In times when the television has replaced the erstwhile joint family’s grandfather as the grand storyteller of life and its lessons, of values and popular culture, it may be moot to take a look at what people derive from the facts and fiction that television brings to their living rooms. After all, every evening, families across India do gather around their TV sets.

There are lessons – good and bad – that people could be deriving from a host of reality shows such as Bigg Boss 4, MasterChef India and, say, Kaun Banega Crorepati 4, all ongoing shows. These are randomly named and in no way mean that the other reality shows have nothing to teach us.

There are four potentially harmful lessons to be learnt. First, that it pays to be bad. The louder you are, the crasser you are, the greater your fan following. Politeness and compassion are out. Second, that it pays to be self-centered. It is fine to speak the language of ‘I, me, and myself’ if you are anchoring a show – there’s no need for consideration for others or respect for their skills.

Third, that you should never try to separate fact from fiction. It’s all right to add drama to some mundane, perfectly normal everyday situations. When you add such drama, you become a media star. Every channel follows you, wants your opinion on everything and it may even land you your own TV show.

Fourth, that relationships are a matter of convenience. What’s good today may not be good tomorrow. You must constantly evaluate your relationships to see what works for the moment. It’s perfectly fine to switch sides if it works for you.

Fortunately, in midst of a host of reality shows that teach dangerous lessons, there is a show that teaches lessons of humility, politeness, respect and compassion. The fact that the lessons of humility and politeness come from India’s biggest movie icon, only add to overall weight of the lessons.  The fact that his shows are pulling more eyeballs than any other show tells that people do hold old world values in high regard and don’t get swayed by attention-grabbing gimmicks.

All this has implications not only on the emerging popular culture but also on brands. All brands are a function of two contexts: the content of brands and the environment in which they live. Brands control their content, and leverage the environment. If a brand lives in the right environment, it creates the right feeling about itself. If it lives in the wrong environment, it weakens and can eventually destroy its own equity.

There are many brands that are riding on the TV reality shows. They are present either as sponsors, or as advertisers in the commercial breaks, or in programme placements. If a brand appears in an environment where the values propounded by the show are contrary to what the brand stands for, should it evaluate its presence? Brands go to great lengths to test their creative content, measure their advertising impact, and track their efficacy. Maybe it is time they also added the effect of environment on themselves.

So, will brands ever do that? Rise above the ordinary and take a wider responsibility? Or will we, as consumers, have to trigger the change?


Published in Hindustan Times 22.10.2010

1 thought on “Lessons from Reality TV

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