Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

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Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The loss of culture

The makers of SaReGaMaPa have sold the programme down the river.

With the elimination of good singers and the "green light" to at least a couple of undeserving ones [Paresh and Ujjaini], Gajendra Singh may regret public voting, the MDs may regret it, but the marketing folks in Zee must be opening champagne bottles. It is after all a ratings & revenues game. Once rotten programmes like Indian Idol and Gurukul opened the bottle and let out the genie of ratings/public voting, I bet Zee had no option but to follow suit, either by creating a programme to compete with them or by using an existing programme. Since SaReGaMaPa was readily available, they may have simply used that as a vehicle. In any case, the programme had steadily lost its high-quality output since Sonu Nigam's departure and this seems to have brought back the programme on page 3s and other fora. 3.5 million votes is a big deal. I would hazard a guess that the number of people who watch the programme but do not vote is much greater than 3.5 million. But 3.5 million SMS mesages at Rs. 6/- per message (as mentioned bya friend in a usenet newsgroup) means a lot of revenues for the telecom companies as well as the tv channel.

The name "SaReGaMaPa" is a misnomer. It bears no relation to the earlier programme of the same name. This one is a reality show. Filmi dialogue, crying buckets of tears, clips of participants romping around, participants acting out "roles", choreography, use of participants to promote malls/charity stuff and so on, ad nauseum.

Oh, its gotten me hooked. So much for my good taste!

All this was written for introducing new laws. Quizman's laws
1. All popular culture is dictated by the lowest common denominator.
2. Simplistic, mass-oriented output (tv, books) will always generate more revenue than high-quality, long-lasting good output.
3. The marketing folks will always dictate the creative content, regardless of supposed "no-interference" policies.
Now, all this begs for a niche of tv channels/magazines that provide material for people with triple digit IQs. In the United States, the govt is one such vehicle. NPR & PBS exist to develop and broadcast programmes that stimulate the intellect. The public library system exists to spread higher culture through books and events. Not only that, it actually spreads liberty, by broadening mass-awareness. These outlets spare us from the crass garbage generated by the popular commercial channels, kitschy books, and magazines.

Alas, in India, DD seems to be leading the rush towards cultural suicide. Why can't DD follow the PBS model?

15 Comments:

Blogger Rajiv said...

nice law.. isnt the first one a quote?

2:57 AM  
Blogger Quizman said...

braindead - if it is, it is a bizarre coincidence. I may not be surprised if the thought is more prevalent. However, if it has been thought of before, and I get a source, I will be more than happy to acknowledge it.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Vivek Gupta said...

Nice quotes. Anything which involves voting will produce an outcome appealing to the lowest common denominator because lowest common denominator is the majority. For the very same reason, clowns(mostly) get elected for public offices.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Quizman said...

Vivek: So true!

11:16 AM  
Blogger doubtinggaurav said...

Quizman,

I think once Indian Market matures, we will have better offering.

At present I suspect there is disincentives for channels to rely only on niche.

Also ironically content during bad bad days of socialism was much better. Well in free market it depends on the type of buyer

Regards

1:28 AM  
Blogger Aaman said...

Good stuff - will purloin your laws, with credit, of course

11:04 AM  
Blogger Suhail said...

The interesting thing about lowest common denominator is that while on one hand it seems as if it's the majority, but on the other hand none of the people we know will be fans of these so-called artifacts of "popular culture". The popularity of something which everybody hates, is an enigma to me :) The same thing goes with media/newspapers. I fail to get it. Everybody I know hates TOI, yet it's "The leader that guards the reader". What gives?
Somebody needs to throw a spanner in the works, and see how the system behaves(disruptive model of innovation). I have this strong suspicion, that it won't fail.

I am not saying this based on Zee or any shows discussed in this post. Infact I've never followed them even when in India. And after coming to US, I've actually cut down my already minimal TV watching down to PBS and Simpsons+Seinfeld. And while on this point, Simpsons, I believe is THE show which does justice to both the lowest and highest denominator without making each of them feel dumb. Infact it is even greater because, it actually takes a white American stereotype and seems to celebrate it, yet at the same time making pointed references to whoever cares to take the message, which IMO is exponentially more difficult.

You are bang on the dot about PBS/NPR. But AFAIK, the model are quite different. PBS doesn't get US govt. funding (or does it?) From what I learned, it's more viewer-funded plus fundings from other charities/nonprofit organisations/corporations (eg Nova science series sponsored by Google, some travel programmes funded by Tourism Boards, gardening shows funded by eco/enviroIncs ). Some of these organizations themselves, in turn could be funded by Federal gov, but the coupling is still quite loose. Am I right?

OTOH DD is still more like a media vehicle of the state, directly funded by I&B Ministry and more important than that, controlled by whichever idiot happens to be donning the khaakhi at that time. So if you are a programming director of DD, you can't opt to produce a documentary against the state, whereas PBS does that all the time.

Quality programming is the last thing on DD's minds. Shows like Humlog/Buniyaad etc, I think, were more of a chance(or lack of content in those days) rather than DD keeping its production values or aiming for quality.

The only thing they seem to do best is:
a) Get those PSAs about Pulse Polio.
b) Keeping the language pure and clean in Hindi/Urdu/Marathi(insert yr regional lang here) ("bhoskaabhoskeet don addmi thaar zhaaley" :), unlike other news channel, say AajTak, who deliver street-level Hinglish news with so much impunity, that now their newsreaders have even stopped grappling for that right Hindi word("Do aadmiyon ki death ke baare mein, aapke kya thoughts hai?"). They just go ahead and use Hinglish, right on. Just for this one reason, I commend DD.

Any thoughts? I have more thoughts on this..(sometime over email maybe? No promises though, I am bad at keeping blogger's promise:( ).

(*and with this comment I officially come out of my long hibernation :D How have you been doing lately? Hope good.*)

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion, most of the views on this blog are either from individuals from the cities in India or individuals who do not reside in India.

We need to remember Television is mass media. DD has maintained its "boring" culture based programming. How many of us view that as against MTV or ESPN or some English channel even in India. I do not even want to mention about our allergy to anything Indian once we leave the shores.

Let us not wear a mask and judge others for you and I are the ones who have let the Indian culture down before anybody else.

Rather than pointing holes, why don't we start a +ve movement to promote the "true" Indian culture which is now left to a handful of Indians and the foriegners who seem to have more interest that us.

Your thoughts!

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an outsider (i am neither Indian nor residing in India) and not knowing what exsisted before saregamapa 2005, i must say the quality of the output is incrideble: Himani and Nihira are incredible. Ofcourse the public voting system has NOT voted them in the final 3, but still it made me enjoy the show. And it shows quality much higher then "western" idols. So it ain't THAT bad i guess.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you meant "simple"

quote:

All this was written for introducing new laws. Quizman's laws

2. Simplistic, mass-oriented output (tv, books) will always generate more revenue than high-quality, long-lasting good output.

9:56 PM  
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