theonlinecitizen

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Getting an overdose of Reality TV

Posted by theonlinecitizen on July 22, 2007

If Mediacorp’s TV Channel 5 were a gauge of Singaporeans’ intellectual level, then it would seem Mediacorp has a poor opinion of us Singaporeans!

Or could it be that Mediacorp is merely pandering to the lowest (sorry, lower) denominator of Singapore society. Surely most Singaporeans cannot be that crass or wanting intellectually.

If you find my statement tenuous, just turn on your television to channel 5 right now: you have a 33% chance of catching a “Reality TV” show. Stay glued to your set for a week, and you’ll find yourself watching such shows a staggering 55.5 hours out of the 168 hours programmed.

Where are the shows on local issues?

The mainstream media – and certainly Mediacorp – appear to have abdicated that part of their role in publishing and broadcast which calls for building a ‘thinking nation’.

Don’t agree?

Everyday, we watch inane TV programmes imported from America or churned out by our own local broadcasting talents.

The issues of the day do not exist for Medicacorp. Perhaps, they merit only passing mention during news cast time. Or, perhaps, such programmes do not help with the bottom line? Or, more sinister, programming is by edict (of the ruling class)?

An old journalist friend likes to quote some other old journalist in saying: No newspaper rises above its editor. Likewise, broadcast station rises above its top honcho.

If you do not agree with my somewhat dismal observations, ask when was the last time you saw a series like the Milton Friedman economic lectures or a James Galway history of music series on your Singapore TV? Or at least a token debate on one of the five top burning issues in Singapore in recent months/years?

A simple breakdown

While reality tv may have entertainment value, should we be spending so much money and time on them?

Some have questioned the values these shows are imparting to our young, while others have simply been turned off. There is only so much reality (tv) one can take.

Such shows include the following:

Survivor

The Ellen Degeneres Show

The Tyra Banks Show

The Martha Stewart Show

Talk Show With Spike Feresten

The Apprentice

Spell Cast

Victoria Secrets Fashion Show

Deal Or No Deal

Criss Angel MindFreak

Extreme Makeover Home Edition

Debbie Travis Facelift

How Clean Is Your House

American Idol (Repeat)

Trading Spouses

Battle of the Network Reality Stars

Sports Disasters

Project Runway

The Ellen Degeneres show is broadcast daily from Mondays to Sundays. Ellen comes on 3 times a day. Yes, 3 times in one day – morning, evening and past midnight (except on Sundays).

The Tyra Banks show runs from Mondays to Fridays – twice daily.

Reality shows on prime time, which I will consider as the time belt from 7pm to 10pm, takes up 7.5 hours in a 21 hour, one-week slot. Again, this is about 1/3 of the total programming time (24 hours daily).

There are 10 hours of “Reality TV” shows on Mondays and Wednesdays – out of the 24 hours in a day.

The other days (except Sundays) see between 7 to 8 hours of such shows.

Why does Ellen Degeneres air thrice every day, from Mondays to Fridays? Are we so enamoured of her that she should command so much air time?

Besides these Reality shows, the other slots are taken up by local sitcoms and dramas such as repeats of Phua Chu Kang, Living With Lydia, Maggie & Me, Lifeline, Heartlanders. Previously, there were inane sitcoms like Police & Thief and Achar.

Throw in the occasional movie and the usual American dramas like Desperate Housewives, CSI, Law & Order and Ugly Betty and you have your channel 5 tv schedule.

What purpose?

While one would not begrudge Mediacorp broadcasting these shows if they attract viewers and thus brings in the advertising dollars, one would still have to question if such programmes serve any purpose at all.

The more important question would be: Wouldn’t it be better, more productive and more worthwhile to allocate some of the time taken up by “Reality TV” to programmes which discuss local issues?

Mediacorp has practically kept quiet about the many issues which have cropped up recently – if you do not consider what is reported in the news programmes, of course. Issues such as UNSW’s closure, ministers’ pay hike, hospital means testing, the trial of former NKF directors, the GST, foreign students, etc.

Programmes on local/current issues

Why does Mediacorp not have programmes to allow the public to participate in meaningful debates about these issues? The few that we saw, particularly on the mandarin channels, had ministers explaining the GST hike and Workfare to an audience of invited guests such as Mark Lee – several months ago!

Surely, out of all the time – and money – reserved for Reality TV, some of it could be allocated to perhaps programmes similar to Talking Point or Feedback which we had in the past?

Even over at Channelnewsasia (CNA), there are hardly any programmes which would deal with local issues in a “live” broadcast. It appears that the only discussions would be related to business and other related issues.

In any case, CNA’s audience is regional & international rather than local.

An inclusive society, not a “Reality-tv hungry” society

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has declared that he wants an “inclusive society”. But from the way our broadcast media is scheduling its programmes, it seems that such “inclusivity” is lost on them.

This is especially sad since Mediacorp is the only local broadcast media we have.

Doesn’t fostering an “inclusive society” involve allowing people to engage in discussions and debates on matters which affect them? And since we only have one local broadcast media company, isn’t it incumbent upon it to devote air time to this?

I think local issues deserve more time than Ellen Degeneres, don’t you? And we haven’t even talk about channel 8 and channel U yet!

Perhaps it’s time Mediacorp weaned itself off this obsession with “reality tv” programmes – both on channel 5 and channels 8 & U – and allow time for real issues.

And oh, more “reality tv” is on the way with the premier of Girl On Girl, Live Your Dreams and Campus Superstar (on Ch 8).

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10 Responses to “Getting an overdose of Reality TV”

  1. etre pour soi said

    I’m sure that Mediacorp is giving its audience (or an overwhelming majority) exactly what they want, and they’re lapping it up. Buying foreign TV series is probably more convenient than producing local shows. And reruns are cost-effective (their costs are largely all sunk costs, and they still manage to attract enough by way of viewership). Unsurprisingly, current affairs programmes have been squeezed out of the programming schedule. Mostly, they have been shunted over to 93.8FM, because radio programmes are so much easier and cheaper to produce.

    I’m not sure if this dearth of current affairs programmes on TV can ever be resolved. It’s safe to assume that previous attempts have failed abysmally. Future attempts will probably fail too, given that Mediacorp, like all TV networks, is concerned with maximizing viewership (and minimizing costs). Will supply of such programmes create its own demand? Maybe, but not enough to sustain the bottomline, I think.

    Perhaps you expect too much of the TV industry?

  2. Hi etre pour soi,

    As I recall, the rationale for collecting tv licence fees is so that our tv stations can broadcast programmes which are not commercially attractive but which are necessary.

    Crime Watch, for example.

    So, I do not buy the reasoning that Mediacorp should or can only broadcast programmes which are commercially viable.

    Otherwise, why have us pay for tv licence fees?

    To quote from the MICA website:

    The bulk of Public Service Broadcast funding is channeled towards the production of local programmes in various genres. Local programmes are costly to make but are needed to keep Singaporeans informed about issues of relevance to our society, promote better appreciation of social issues and strengthen community bonding. Some examples of PSB programmes supported in the past year include: 40 on 40 a documentary series which traces the significant trends and developments in Singapore over the last 40 years, First Mums a drama series on first-time mothers and Manam a drama on the plight of those suffering from mental illness.

    PSB funds are also used for National and community interest programmes such as National Day Rally and National Day Message broadcasts to communicate critical national messages to Singaporeans.

    Regards,
    Andrew

  3. Gerald said

    I find watching local TV a total waste of time. I’d rather watch YouTube.

    I agree with Andrew. Feedback and Talking Point type shows should be revived, even if they may not be commercially viable yet. Why the heck do we pay TV license fees if MediaCorp is making loads of money from advertisements on inane reality TV shows?

  4. Numb Already said

    I agree with the general sentiments expressed about wasting time on local TV channels. Notice that Channel 5 only have 30 minutes of news time everyday? only 30 minutes! And sometimes u wonder whether they report anything at all becos about 90% of the news is already “old” as most of us wud already have read them, guess where?, on the net! Why bother!? They are so afraid of producing discussion forums on important issues! Only time they do so is after the Budget where they get a few clowns to “discuss” issues raised by the Finance Minister (or 2nd Finance minister) after his budget delivery. Wat a waste of time and effort! One can become an apathetic numbskull watching too much Mediacorp!

  5. Ann Wong said

    I have almost totally disregarded the local TV channels and programs. The cyberspace is now my source of news and entertainment, other than the HBO shows via CableVision.

    I have also stopped buying local newspapers. If I desperately need to read something of importance or interest that have appeared in the local newspapers, I simply go to the libraries or the clubs to read them. Usually, they are old news, anyway.

    The cyberspace is much faster and more up-to-date than the local newspapers and local TV channels. We are now in the Information Age. So, those medias that cannot cope up with the speed and the varieties of providing what the audience wants will sooner or later have to be phased out of the race.

    Moreover, local mass medias are totally controlled and “directed” by the govt and, therefore, have gained a reputation of presenting only what they want us to know or hear, not the whole picture or the whole truth. Most of the time, half-truths or selective truths.

    I avoid all the local mass medias almost totally because I do not wish to go “blind” or “unbalanced”!

  6. Shaun said

    Thankfully I have cable. What will I do without National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Travel and Living etc.

    There’s so much crap on TV these days I can’t remember think of any reasons to watch Channel 5 unless its the news. Even then, Numb Already has a point. We would probably have heard of it even before the broadcast time through the internet.

    What we need are more quality programs that will capture the nation’s interest while enriching them. But that might take some time especially with the lamentable fact that S’pore’s Media network’s a monopoly. So there’s not much of a choice really.

    PS. Speed 2 Cruise Control’s on Star Movies tonight! (Advertisement free) =)

  7. Hi Shaun,

    Cable is a relief – if you can afford it. Majority of singaporeans still either don’t have it or can’t afford it. (SCV recently increased their charges, right?).

    In any case, cable doesn’t cover local issues.

    I really hope someone with clout will speak out about this and help wake Mediacorp up.

    Regards,
    Andrew

  8. Shuan Seow said

    What is so difficult to understand? MediaCorp is simply a tool by the PAP government and ministry of information and propaganda to bombard, inundate and cultivate in passive viewers the “right” views and attitudes. And to pay for such propaganda you are “taxed” through the TV Licencing fees so that in effect you are paying for the propaganda that seeks to blind and dumb you down.

  9. Shaun said

    Actually what we need is a CAPABLE and COMPETENT committee to decide what goes into our television. I’m sure there probably is one, enlighten me if I’m wrong, but apparently they have not been doing a good job if they exist.

    I believe in liberalising the television market. Naturally when Mediaworks went bust, I was disappointed. But then again in such an ‘open’ society as ours, what are the chances that we really get to see or hear what we really want?

    I really feel fortunate to have Cable in my household. I feel for other Singaporeans without it.

  10. LifesLikeThat said

    Shaun,

    I used to subscribe to cable until i realised i was paying for something i had no time for. But when i was subscribed, i would watch BBC, CNN, Discovery and National Geographic.

    Of course, occasionally you’d catch a report about singapore. And you can tell immediately the depth of the BBC or CNN’s reports.

    Mediacorp has a world to do before they even catch up.

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