Let’s Talk

I am no avid researcher of talk shows but I presume it got into vogue and gained very high level of popularity based on at least some depth of knowledge of the personalities who were called upon to enlighten both the masses and government. The personalities/experts were to represent all the strands of thought/dimensions of the problem/issue and the all knowing presenter would make a sense of it all for the benefit of the audience.

All the games are played as per the rules of the game. The rules of this game are still not spelt out, might be not even known to its players. The same football match (talk shows) is being played in different styles on different channels, different number of players, different quality, most with no goal post, no winners, no losers, no consensus, liberty given to speakers to leave midway and the aggressiveness of the presenter – who is all knowing and is the embodiment of all virtues on the face of this earth, The unformatted format is here to stay courtesy the self proclaimed professionals in the field.

If you have ever visited a mufassil private bus stand, where private buses vie with each other for the same passengers on the same routes through incomprehensible high pitched announcements in most crude style, you would be in for exactly the same experience while surfing news channels every evening. At the end of it all the audience matures and veers off to some other medium to satisfy his information and knowledge requirements. Earlier mass communication professionals made a living out of expertise they gathered with great difficulty through sheer hard work and total focused living for the cause of the profession. Today technology, gloss and the format can do that job. The result we are experiencing day in and day out to our utmost peril.

Democracy is all out choices. With channels mushrooming even in scorching heat the choices are still non – existent. The presenters and the speakers are known. The style of the dialogue delivery and the stand one would take on an issue is also very well known. The depth of knowledge of both the presenter and speakers are also not unknown. With presenters aggressive and uncouth efforts to force the speakers to toe to his line of thought, with audio controls under his command, he or she is the reigning deity of the mass media.

Pronouncements of the presenters gives audience the feeling that they would start working with Sisters of Charity even before the show closes. All your hopes would be belied for sure and they would be back there once again the next day with the same classes on Art of Good Living. The business has to run and the TRP is the only number which a TV channel needs to understand.

Can a country of over one billion people does not have more than at the maximum of two dozen speakers all English channels combined, it might increase by few more dozens if all vernacular channels are included. The same faces can handle any subject. In an age of super specialization what is offered to the Indian masses is massive dose of unwanted super generalization and we have to manage with it. Serious audience is veering back to the print media. The visual media functional theory of 24/7 existence does not serve the interest of the audience from any angle. Audience of is one of the components of the detailed plan report following the standard business cycle of similar businesses like concept paper, proof of concept, funding, execution, TRP and the like. At the end of the day a very successful business model has been created which can be replicated/executed if you have the following configuration:

Sufficient funding
Technical competence
Few reporters in a few metros
One great presenter or who can pose as one
Standard speakers
A acceptable TRP

A national level channel is ready to serve the Indian democracy. No channel has ever closed down based on a SMS survey. The biggest propagators keep themselves out of direct survey completely.

If you finally decide to be a speaker at any of these talk shows, your first steps to national prominence, do it only if you have perfected the art of talking simultaneously. Sometimes the viewer is astonished as to how a person can consistently speak off the subject, totally unconcerned of what other panel members are speaking on the same subject and as a part of the same discussion. All the senses of the viewer is put to a stress test and if he comes out successfully he hardly has any thoughts to carry home. Its only a bitter taste that is what you are left with, swearing that you would never watch a talk show ever again in your life. Old habits die hard as they say and you are yet again found to be watching the same show.

After all in a country bereft of hobbies, more so purposeful ones, what choice does a person have? Bollywood seems to have been losing out to these entertainment machines. The most commendable achievement of Indian television has been the successful forceful transformation of news to pure entertainment.