New Delhi, Jan. 30: When two aircraft crashed into the twin towers in New York and added “9/11” to the world’s vocabulary, it was as real as television can get.
Before that, for Indian television viewers, there was Kargil. Firmly convinced that the viewers’ appetite for danger in real life has only been whetted, Zee Turner, the joint venture distribution company of Zee Television and Turner India, has announced that it was adding to its “bouquet” of channels the first “real” Reality TV.
Reality TV, launched by Zone Vision in the UK in 1999, has been marketed across continents as the only channel that beams “reality” programmes for 24 hours. In the jargon of the television channel business, “reality programmes” package situations in which people confront adversity — usually physical adversity — such as dangerous ski jumps, sailors caught in choppy waters, high-altitude jumping, grisly traffic accidents and natural disasters. “What we bring you will be very different from what you have seen,” promised Chris Sharp, managing director of Zone Vision. “This will be ‘real’ reality for 24 hours.”
Sharp was trying to draw the distinction between the channel and “staged” or “conditioned” reality in which participants are put through tough contests. For example, Temptation Island, Survivors or Zee’s own Raah, in which the contestants compete amongst themselves to last out adversarial situations. Zone Vision claims that reality programming is a proven success across the world.
In India, however, other channels beaming reality shows — such as AXN — have had to alter their programming and introduce in them chat shows, contests and fictional narratives. One reason for this is that news channels have beamed some of the most sensational reality footage ever — 9/11, for instance, or the Kargil war of 1999, or the militant strike on Akshardham, on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and on Parliament.
“With Reality TV, we will have 17 channels in our bouquet by April,” said Sunil Khanna, chief executive officer of Zee Turner. “We aim to make Reality TV available to 10 million homes within the first two weeks of launch. Reality TV will be an encrypted (pay) channel but we are now going to make it available to cable operators at no extra cost.”
Reality TV takes off from February 1 and within a week it will be up against the stiffest competition of real images on TV in India — live and exclusive on Sony Entertainment Television, 54 days of World Cup cricket.