Many people have written against the detestable Ramazan transmissions being aired at almost every national television channel this year (http://www.dawn.com/news/1121544). Promoting the culture of greed, the spirit of this month which was intended for self-regulation and self-reflection has been so badly contorted out of shape that no words are enough to lament this obnoxious trend. So I will not even try.
It is definitely the lowest of the lows. That’s about it.
I intend to see as to where does the fault lie and is there a way to reverse this trend.
A lot has been said against the television channels that authorize and celebrate such ridiculous programs, so as to urge them to demonstrate more responsible behaviour in deciding what they choose to show. There is nothing wrong with such appeals because they spring out of the hearts and conscience of deeply concerned, educated citizens. But we all know in our heart of hearts that they are going to fall on deaf ears; and why wouldn’t they? I believe it is somewhat naive to expect socially responsible behaviour from television channels that operate solely on the economic principles of a corporation. Yes, it sounds downright cynical; but serving the public interest does not score very high on the priority list of these commercial TV channels. A television channel, like any business or corporation, is simply a profit-maximizing entity; it is not operating under the mandate of a moral conscience or upon an oath that it will seek to educate and enlighten the citizenry. It does what corporations do best: make money, maximize profits. No peripheral concern. The end.
In fact corporations are perhaps better. They are at least courteous enough to make a pretence of committing to social responsibility with their nice little CSR departments. If the state tells a factory to reduce the amount of waste it’s dumping in a water body, more often than not, it will accede to it. Television channels continue to, unabashedly, dump their waste in our living rooms, and into our brains, without even realizing that there’s something wrong with that.
But can we blame them?
I am not trying to defend the wrongs of electronic media; I’m repulsed by them as much as most of you hopefully are. My point is to highlight that it is unrealistic to expect a television channel to be what it is not. It is definitely not a welfare cause; it is merely a moneymaking project driven by ratings. Rating points, which depend on the audience size, translate into profits. And so the simple formula to heighten the ratings is to maximize the audience size. That is the sole driving force behind every program, every drama serial, every news transmission, and every talk-show: Offer what strikes a chord with most. Who gives the channels the ratings? Audiences: us, the people.
Whose fault is it then that socially meaningful or educationally significant programs bring the channels such dismal ratings that they don’t find it economically viable to continue them? Its basic Econ 101: Supply meets demand. Simply ‘give them what they want’.
No sir, they don’t want to watch a dull snoozefest with perhaps some educative value, a sane perspective, or sophisticated conduct. They demand cheap shenanigans and they are served with it. I say ‘they’ to refer to the majority of the public whose representative sample is mostly in attendance in these shows, slobbering over gifts and goodies, without any trace of shame.
To me, it is not alarming that channels are airing such shows; it is alarming that such incredibly huge numbers of people are actually watching and enjoying them. If there’s no demand, the supply will cease to be. Again, remember a television channel is, at the end of the day, an economic entity.
Hence the downward spiral of mediocrity. Because there is a large demand for mediocrity.
Television channels, therefore, not only capitalize on the intellectual mediocrity of the populace but also perpetuate it in the process.
If this unfortunate cycle is to stop immediately, initiative should ideally come from the media houses, but keeping in view the economics of television channels we’ve considered, it is highly unlikely that it will. The spectre of competition dictates that if one channel launches a money-spinning venture, every other will follow suit, and none will take the risk to lag behind or do away with it to incur a massive loss.
Here’s how the demand will slump: if people stop watching these things.
Here’s hoping that our collective tastes gradually evolve, develop and refine over time so that we can tell trash and quality television apart. Many would believe that good education, with its enlightening power, is often the prerequisite for that – or perhaps a moment of epiphany, for the odds of that, in our case, might be higher.