Influence of Reality Shows on Indian Society

Shankar Phukan
Dept. of Mass Communication, Assam University,Assam,India

Mass Media is a means of communication that reaches and influence a large number of
people. The media put our environment in perspective by giving several aspects, meaning and
explanations relating to it. The media must have some pervasive influence on our thoughts,
beliefs, values, and even our behavior. Television is a popular and powerful medium that both
imitates and influences culture. For many people, television is a primary source of
information and entertainment. It is a window into a different world an opportunity to view
people, place, and things that we may not have experienced first-hand. In an increasingly
global society, television shapes society’s perception of the world.
Reality shows, they say, breaks the monotony by creating interesting scripts and out-of-thebox ideas that made them stand out from the run-of-the-mill shows. Although drama lovers
are still glued to their television sets at prime time, reality shows are gaining the limelight to a
large extent. With the worldwide small screen sector coming up with new concepts for reality
shows, India too is in the race to project good and original concepts. Every day on television,
some new reality shows are being introduced, enabling the viewers to choose to choose from
a large menu of many shows. Reality television is a genre of television programming that
presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events,
and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors, sometimes in a contest or
other situation where a prize is awarded.
Media content analysis is an integral part of media studies and research that heighten media
users’ or citizens’ understanding of the society. Media programmes particularly telecast
shows, are bound to have positive or negative impact on society. Television is arguably the
most pervasive mass medium because it combines sound and pictures and no skills are
necessary the audience to watch or enjoy them. Today, reality shows with celebrities acts as a
clutter-breaking property for viewers; they provide increased visibility and a chance to reach
out to a larger TV-viewing audience. Even though the star quotient is important as it attracts
viewers instantly, reality shows keep viewers glued to TV monitor even when the presence of
stars is less relevant. Thus it is of great importance that the impact of reality shows on society
is assessed.
There are two things about reality shows that attract viewers and generate controversy: the
concept of reality or realism; and the shock effect.
The concept of reality TV draws from realism in cinema. So, it’s a format that presents
ordinary people in live, supposedly unscripted (though often deliberately manufactured)
situations, and monitors or judges their emotions, behaviour or talent. Such formats usually
invoke competition and provide big money as rewards.

Taking forward the Parliament discussion. People do not mind becoming guinea pigs in the name of reality to amuse the nation and make a quick buck. who has voted. Clearly.’’ The truth of reality programmes is they are scripted to show and say what their marketing strategies demand. reality television is another attempt to test all boundaries of tolerance. The situation is exacerbated when producers use the concept of reality to shock and awe audiences—one way to break through the clutter. As eminent film-maker Mahesh Bhatt says. Sadly these programmes are market driven generating emotional participation of the audience and the lives of the ordinary . both the TV channel and the mobile phone company share huge sums of earnings between them. It is a misnomer to call them reality shows as they are not complete live shows. Technically it is a finely edited programme and anyone familiar with the process of video production knows how anything can be touted as reality. In most of the reality shows the winner is chosen by the audience. The details of voting are never made public. And every word uttered is carefully selected with eyes on TRPs. the tendency of producers and broadcasters to push the envelope is obvious. the very dissonance between the fact that these programmes are real and relevant (for the audience) and that contestants usually compete in them for fame and money—thereby being willing to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do—raises issues related to the honesty of reality shows. The same person can send any number of messages making a mockery of public opinion. Since the response is in millions. washing one’s dirty linen on prime time is big business. Without clear guidelines and no regulation or accountability in the broadcasting sector. The viewers have no access to the footage and ultimately viewers get to see what the producer wants them to see. The reality shows are the direct promoters of mobile phone networks. the audience never gets to know. And the audience gets high on its daily dose of ‘reality’ about the private lives of people like themselves. The audience could vote via SMS or telephone but the rates for these services are deliberately kept higher than normal rates fleecing the people. which part of India has voted and what their demographic profile is. But where is the transparency? How many have cast votes and who is monitoring them? We don’t get to see the number of people who have voted for the contestants. We live in shameless times.Still. Reality TV has changed the concept of TV entertainment worldwide but it has also raised vital questions about its social relevance and tabloidization of its content. Further. we need an independent broadcast regulator in place at the earliest to look into these contentious issues. The camera angles and editing are selective that manipulate the content of the programme defeating the meaning of reality show. Every scene of action is imposed on the audience. Reality TV has created new breed of celebrities whose fame to stardom is transitory there by creating more social and psychological problems in the already complex social system. “Today. as suggested by eminent director Shyam Benegal. The Reality TV has paved way for competition basking in individualism. The result says that reality shows are becoming more and more provocative and outrageous. The participants surrender their privacy and narrate their private life on camera to the nation breaking all the social and cultural barriers creating social tensions in the family and social circles.

Next breakthrough reality shows in India came up with adaptation of popular international shows like The Voice India and So Now You Can Dance. From a business point of view these shows are hugely successful but from social perspective the Reality TV has created a new breed of neoliberals flaunting individualism in a society that draws strength from unique cultural identity instead of surveillance culture propounded by the reality programming. Zee TV later made its name to bring about home-grown reality shows rather adapting international reality shows on Indian TV. Sony Entertainment was another channel with the India’s first dance reality show Boogie Woogie in 1996 which hosted by Javed Jaffrey and was introduced by Naved Jaffrey and this became an instant hit for the channel. List of reality shows on Indian Television:  Kaun Banega Crorepati (Star Plus) . In 1992. Advertisers were ready to invest and also there were no dearth of participants. History of Reality Shows: The first Indian reality show of any kind on Indian television was Bournvita Quiz Contest hosted by the quizzing champion Derek O’ Brien in 1972. Then came ‘Sansui Antakshri’ in 1993 which was hosted by Annu Kapoor on Zee TV. The global franchisees of these reality shows have one common thread running globally that is to rake in huge revenue. This adaptation was further expanded when the channel again came up with a show named “Bigg Boss” and “Fear Factor” in 2006. It became the first singing reality show which ran till 2006. “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa” came in the year 1995 which was hosted by Sonu Nigam and in 2009 came Dance India Dance. It can also be viewed as democratization of media content but the market driven nature is the bottom line of Reality TV. These reality shows are copy cats of western programmes lacking in originality and creativity. It was first featured as a live show in various cities. SET India introduced another singing reality show “Indian Idol” which was an adaptation to the popular international reality show “American Idol”. In 2004. They are seen as part of globalization of media that is trying to establish homogenous and mono concept programmes for people of all cultures and societies. Amitabh Bachchan. It turned out to be India’s most popular international adapted show after KBC. Zee TV came up with ‘Sawal Dus Crore Ka’ and SET India came up with ‘Jeeto Chappad Phaadke’. it became the first reality show to be featured on Zee TV and was the first Television reality show. The boom in the Indian reality shows occurred in the year 2000 when Kaun Banega Crorepati was aired by Star Plus and was hosted by Mr. The success of this show opened up numerous avenues for such shows on Indian TV. then went on air as a radio show. These shows changed the concept of singing and dance shows on Indian Television.people become the staple media content.

Nabi et al. and many more. The debut of Survivor in 2000 has been credited with the commencement of reality programming in the current television landscape (Rowen. Frank suggests that younger viewers are drawn to these shows because they depict characters and situations that are relevant to their everyday lives. and political changes in modern society and hence the study attempts to determine impact of reality shows on the society. rather than research involving audiences. It also helps parents to involve their children to read books on the same subjects as they discuss the television programmes. television helps to learn about other cultures. although it has not been until recently years that these types of shows have gained immense popularity. most assumptions about the psychology of reality television viewership are derived from textual analyses of reality-based programs. shows such as Survivor. A researcher at the University of Missouri Columbia discovered these shows actually have a positive impact on viewers. Thus. (2003) felt that regular viewers watched because they found it entertaining and it entertaining and that it was enjoyable to watch another’s life as it enhanced their own . (2003)“Entertainment needs are met through reality television because these shows allow people to make comparisons with media images – comparisons that ultimately help them feel better about themselves and their personal circumstances . economic.        Dance India Dance (Zee TV) Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (Zee TV) Indian Idol (Sony Entertainment) Bigg Boss (Colors) Jhalak Dikhla Jaa (Sony Entertainment) Nach Baliye (Star Plus) MTV Roadies (MTV) Splitsvilla (MTV).” Such behaviours are easily adapted to audience specially youth. According to Frisby C. These traits are unhealthy and considered uncivilized in the society. Therefore. to sum up. Big Brother are attracting more than 18 million viewers per episode. it calls for investigations of reality-based programming based on the assumption that such programmes may implicate a network of social. According to the Nielsen (2003) ratings. Reality television programmes have been around since the first broadcast of Candid Camera in the late 1940’s. Most of reality television programming is geared to individuals under twenty five years of age (Frank. Literature Review: According to Hight (2001). which are harmful for overall society’s progress. Fear Factors. gives an opportunity to spend time with family members when they watch television together. 2000). American Idol. 2003).

A consistent and significant relationship is found between weekday viewing and a more mistrustful world view J (cited in Vijayalakshmi. reality television shows have regularly dominated the top 10 television show ratings. although did not relate to academic performance (Markey & Markey. research on reality television has been sparse. They generally prefer the foreign programme to the indigenous programmes. It is evident from the warning. Children also tend to believe that whatever they see on TV is what actually takes place in reality. Another study indicated that viewing reality dating shows predicted . 2007). Subgroups of reality programming were found to be fluid and difficult for viewers to separate one from another because of the overlap among the categories. and makeover shows. Some investigators have examined the issue of reality television viewing and appearance concerns. Young adults are more likely to wish to alter their appearance through cosmetic surgery after having seen cosmetic surgery reality programming (Markey & Markey 2010.. A more liberal stance is related to heavy viewers both Chinese or American programmes among females and those with high parental education. Dating programs were found to be a unique type of programming that did not relate to other types. Nonetheless. 2005). 2012). 2012). Casually viewers watched because they were bored or because they enjoyed watching another’s life. inter-personal relationships and ageing in Taiwan. Nabi encourages reality TV researchers to focus on the qualities of the programs and not the categories. Other research has suggested that reality television connectedness (i. Markey & Markey. 2012). or “the program aired is with adult content and parental guidance is recommended” (CBC Manual.awareness about themselves. Nabi (2007) used multidimensional scaling to understand the subgroups of reality TV programming. researchers found that watching cosmetic surgery programs increased disordered eating attitudes in women with pre-existing thin-ideal internalization but not other women (Mazzeo et al. It is very unfortunate that the modern day reality television portrays improper and inappropriate values and children absorb it the way it is aired. In another study an author considered the impact of cosmetic surgery focused reality programming and found that such shows had little impact on body image but did promote positive beliefs about the benefits of cosmetic surgery (Nabi. (Coyne et al. “children are advised not to imitate the sequences of events portrayed on the shows”. romance and competitiveness. A study conducted by American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2011) confirms that by the time children graduate from high school they would have spent more time in front of the television than they might have spent in a classroom. Reality television includes several subgenres. contribution of television viewing is distinctly contingent upon the background and other social conditions.. The effects of such shows are probably not alarming but may have some subtle influences. There were two dimensions along which viewers thought about reality TV. In terms of perception of sex roles. 2009). crime and violence. feeling as if one relates personally to the show content) correlates with a focus on one’s appearance (valuing physical appearance as a major facet of self-esteem). dating shows.e. Kuo-Yi Wu (1990) studies the role and contribution of television in shaping of social perception such as sex roles. In one study. including talent competitions. During the past decade.. 2010). real-life shows.

and lack of eccentricity were associated with perceived learning. their rationale for watching reality shows. The results discussed are on types of television programmes viewed. Negative outcomes were related more to viewers’ desires to learn from the shows and beliefs that they were entertaining and valuable rather than from direct exposure. Nabi et al. (2008) conducted a research study to explore college students' consumption patterns in regard to reality television. their perceptions of the situations portrayed on these shows. candidness. Hall A.. Cast representativeness was also positively associated with social involvement. that they were representative of people the respondents could meet. representativeness. Perceptions that the cast was not eccentric. Significance of the study: Media content analysis is an integral part of media studies and research that heighten media users’ or citizens’ understanding of the society. rating of most watched reality shows and its impact on society. their perceptions of the situations portrayed on these shows. and sexual double standards. a focus on one’s appearance. Each form of involvement was associated with enjoyment. that they were behaving candidly. (2012) made attempt to explore opinion of the students. Dating programs did not predict real-life sexual behaviors of viewers. 2006). candidness. house maker and teaching faculty's consumption patterns in regard to reality television. Television is arguably the . Meti V. but these correlations were mediated by viewer engagement (Zurbriggen & Morgan. and that the producers were manipulating the show were associated with cognitive involvement.adversarial sexual attitudes. 2007. their rationale for watching reality shows. research scholars. and producer manipulation. and perceived learning. 2006). 2011). they continue to watch because of the perceived escapism and social affiliation provided. A serious disadvantage of reality shows is that they do not take into consideration the emotional wellbeing of the contestants. are bound to have positive or negative impact on society. enjoyment. Other research suggested that watching dating shows was related to discussions of sex among teens. Media programmes particularly telecast shows. but not their expectations for dating relationships (Vandenbosch & Eggermont. (2009) investigated whether viewer perceptions of reality programs' authenticity were associated with involvement. and Jange S. and the role of social affiliation in the students' consumption of reality television. The results of focus groups indicated that while participants perceive a social stigma associated with watching reality television. and its impact on the society based on the sample of 100 respondents in Gulbarga city of Karnataka state. Perceptions of the cast members' representativeness. Four dimensions of perceived authenticity were identified: cast eccentricity. It lays abnormal levels of stress among contestants and even a single negative comment and score from the jury can demoralize them. al. The study conducted by University of Michigan provides adequate proof that Reality TV shows have resulted in a change for the worse. Several recent studies have suggested the uses and gratifications approach is particularly useful in understanding the effects of reality television (Papacharissi & Mendelson. Lundy et.

Many of them start wearing more revealing clothes even to the extent that they get the cosmetic surgery done because that’s what the girls do on the shows. listening to abusive language. The pros are information penetration. Television has become an “idiot – box” because they have found some negative influences of Television Shows where the youth are watching too much television that leads to obesity and other risky behaviour in them. The cons include children imitating vulgar gestures. as they project that it is fine to behaviours like being aggressive. Reality TV shows have adverse influence on the minds of the youth. . drinking and having premarital sex. reality shows with celebrities acts as a clutter-breaking property for viewers. Moreover. Today. awareness on social issues and so on. reality shows keep viewers glued to TV monitor even when the presence of stars is less relevant. These shows basically have pros and cons. The youth that spend a lot of time in watching television do not spend enough time being physically active. The youth have to understand that their obsession with reality shows can bring disaster for them instead of fame to their life. On Television shows. jealousy and have provocation dressing. research is important to arouse awareness among people especially among youth and women as they are the most vulnerable groups in society. placing importance on materialistic pleasures than value systems (Josephson. especially the true meaning of reality show in their life. Statement of the problem: For most of the people. watching adult content. enhanced creativity and innovation in entertainment. smoking. creates rift in the family relationship. Thus it is of great importance that the impact of reality shows on society is assessed. Since Reality TV is believed to be true life. resorting to adventurous/dangerous game shows. So. Television itself also promotes risky behaviours in youth to react upon. Keeping in mind the above problems I decided to study the opinions of youth regarding the influence of reality shows on society. this study can bring out some unexpected and serious fact of reality shows which will make people realize the significance of the practice of television viewing. people come to expect that the things that they watch on the shows will happen in real life and people start acting negatively towards others. Youth are often portrayed doing drugs. When it comes to influence. employment opportunities for the people behind the reality television shows. It can create disturbance in youths’ life and make one life stressful. 1995). using abusive language. Even though the star quotient is important as it attracts viewers instantly. Reality TV definitely has an impact on people.most pervasive mass medium because it combines sound and pictures and no skills are necessary for the audience to watch or enjoy them. they provide increased visibility and a chance to reach out to a larger TV-viewing audience.

Reality shows are just the means of entertainment and far from any reality. 2. Questionnaire will be distributed among a sample size of 100 students. Hypothesis: 1. . Participants will be asked to evaluate themselves on each of the 32items with response possibilities ranging from 1-strongly disagree to 5-strongly agree. There will be both qualitative and quantitative approach involved to bring out the best result. Here. The fourth objective is to assess whether there is any gender influence in the impact of reality shows among parents and children. Methodology: The survey method will be used to analyze the popularity and impact of reality shows. And here. Qualitative approach will be required to study the reasons behind watching and following the reality shows while quantitative approach will be required to find out the various types of reality shows and their viewers.Aims & Objectives: The aim of this study is to prove that reality shows are contributing towards the crisis of identity among people these days as they are following and imitating the lives of the people being shown in the reality TV shows which are not real. the cultivation theory of mass media comes into picture which says that TV is responsible for shaping people’s minds and cultivating a kind of behavior in them which is actually not theirs. This questionnaire will consists of 32-items. The second objective is to critically examine the reason behind viewers’ preference on watching reality shows. The third objective is to analyze the reasons of why people tend to adapt these so called ‘real reel lives’ and why they are so fascinated towards the lives of reel personalities. Reality shows are responsible for identity crisis among people. the first objective is to identify the various types of reality television programs watched by the people and to understand the popularity of these shows.

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