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'2006 will see a new kind of fictional television'

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B.A.G Films managing director Anurradha Prasad has the singular distinction of being involved in both serious news and fiction production for television. That puts her in a vantage position, giving her a bird's eye view of a wide spectrum of television content. In this year end piece written exclusively for Indiantelevision.com, she talks about the sad twist in the news reporting business, the emergence of reality and game shows and how 2006 will see the emergence of a new kind of fiction. Read on:

While the Year 2005 clearly belonged to reality and game shows, it also belonged to programs like Siddhanth and Rihhaee - which had a strong social message. The difference: the so called reality shows were propped up and injected with moolah and marketing by the channels right from their inception, the other genre of programs died untimely deaths mainly due to sheer neglect and a lack of interest.

We can take the analogy of a poor student who is asked to top the class but has no books, not even a decent tuition. All programming usually is based on trends, which are wholly market driven and, as per its demand, a particular trend is created.

There have actually been two trends of news reporting in 2005, sensationalism and sting operations. However neither of these two have anything to do with journalism. The news reporting is taking its cue from the soap channels. So we have exclusive breaking news like XYZ is sleeping with somebody or film actress is involved in the flesh trade, which neither helps the population nor the country.

More fiction is making its way into news with the end game being: generate TRPs. As anything sensational is always lapped up by the public and such news trends have enjoyed high viewership in 2005. An alarming aspect of this trend is that it is corrupting the audience's mind and making us intellectually bankrupt as more serious areas of reporting like analysis and research are being given short shrift.

In a way the reality shows succeeded, not on their programming merits but more due to the lack of alternative programming on television. These shows had more credibility in them as they were endorsed by credible and popular icons, for example, Mr Amithabh Bachchan in KBC. The audiences always desired a change from their daily soap grind where sometimes the script goes over board with dead characters coming back or the serial taking a 20 years leap; but if you want to have some kind of entertainment you have to watch that as there is no other choice!!

Year 2005 has had a major impact on the audience. The year has increased the expectations of the viewer who will now demand different kind of programs. Hence, 2006 will be the year of groping.

Based on viewer expectation for something different, I expect the year to really kick start the reality and game show genre as what is being shown today is only the tip of the iceberg. I expect Year 2006 to witness the emergence of bigger game shows with king sized budgets. And these shows will also rule the year with audiences continuing to stay glued to them. However, there's a note of caution here as reality shows are already showing some signs of fatigue.

The need today is to look at "INDIAN TELEVISION", with its own identity. Ours is still a country of storytellers, hence this rich tradition no matter how much bastardised, will never die out. Therefore, in 2006 we will also see the birth or evolution of fiction of a very "different type", radically different from what is being offered for the last five years.

And, this alternate or telling of the NEW STORY of new characters will evolve in a big way in 2006. At least, a beginning will be made and it is this that we must focus on along with reality TV, which will perhaps be only the cherry on the cake, but never the cake itself.

The coming year will also see greater corporatisation of TV production houses. The era of "I, Me, Myself" will be over and the time of "BIG HEART, WITH BIG IDEAS" will emerge. This will only happen, when creative, production, finances, infrastructure and operations will work in synergy and together work towards a common goal of creating a landmark product.

This will also mean hiring of young minds as members of the think-tank by production houses. These will be buttressed by the experienced ones. The producers will have to be aware and sensitive to the young India, which will form the majority of their audience universe. This will not only put a final stamp on season-based programming but will compel producers to think innovatively and also come up with innovative production design.

On the news front, audience relatibility, giving them the feeling that they have a platform where their issues are discussed or voiced will hold the key. The GANGULY- CHAPPELL scrap is of no consequence to people at large, but KAMAL NATH'S STAND AT THE WTO, concerns our farmers, hence us. It is when these issues will be taken and addressed in a manner that the lay man is able to understand and identify with, will only TV journalism find an idiom and the respect and credibility, which its print counterparts have.

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