Reality TV shows are showing no signs of slowing down with six already aired on the national TV (Bhutan Broadcasting Services). But the concerns that if such shows are healthy for the participants, especially children, in the absence of clear-cut guidelines to monitor the proceedings are rising.
A media practitioner said in one of the shows it was really disturbing to see a host without any expertise in managing a reality show literally making a child cry on stage when he was about to get eliminated.
He said hosts should be careful when children as young as eight years old are involved. They should at least know something about child psychology.
A few people The Bhutanese talked to on the issue said there might not be professionals to host reality shows in Bhutan, but organizers should consider to involve some retired teachers who know how to manage children’s emotions.
In an email interview, Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority’s (BICMA) Chief Information and Media Officer, Lakshuman Chhetri, said, “No specific guidelines have been issued as the requirements are covered in the application form and project proposal format which need to be completed by a reality show applicant.”
Dawa Penjor from Department of Information and Media (DoIM), communications ministry, said: “I wonder if we really need these reality TV shows. If our children have talent, there are other better platforms to show it. It’s not that every celebrity comes out of reality TV”.
He added the country has a broad policy which ensures that Bhutanese media and entertainment grow professionally and “assure that we don’t follow examples of other countries where things have gone wrong. We can nurture but we cannot dictate people about how they should do each and everything”.
People from some quarters say reality shows are very commercial and do little to nurture the youth.
A media personnel even related such talent shows to child labor. He said child labor is rampant in the entertainment industry where children are misused to reap profits. He added that authorities fail to notice such practices and limit the scope of child labor solely to manual labor.
A concerned parent said, “In the name of preserving culture, the organizers are making money by exploiting children and it is unacceptable. Children are forced to realize failure and defeat at a very young age. And the worst is they are made to beg for votes.”
Asked if reality shows could be edited and aired instead of going live on national TV to ensure the safety of participants and quality entertainment for viewers, Lakshuman Chhetri said, “These options should be best left to the organizers to decide based on the commercial viability of the shows”.
A reality show organizer, Mila Tobgay, said, “We organize such shows to promote youth talent and preserve age-old traditions”. He said his show “National Talent Hunt” did not generate much revenue for his company but helped the children. However, sources said the organizing partners like the broadcasters and telecom companies made profits.
Some say that making a child beg for votes on live TV is inappropriate and it is hard to digest when a child who has not even attained teenage is made to confront failure. Some poor performers may even be subject to insensitive ridicule.
Tshering Yangki, 8, one of the youngest contestants at a reality show said she did not face problems singing modern songs but had a difficult time learning traditional songs like Boedra and Zhungdra.
Pem Dorji, a production manager with one of the shows, who worked closely with young participants, said: “Unlike adults, it’s very hard to handle children’s emotions when they lose. I experienced kids breaking down and there was nothing much that we could do apart from trying to console them.”
Meanwhile, Pema Chozom, a mother of three said reality shows are good but need to be conducted properly. People need to understand that some mistakes can cause traumatic experiences in children that can affect their life, she added.
Dorji, a guardian of Kinley Dorji, one of the participants at Talent Hunt II feels that talent hunt shows are good for children. “Though there are some problems the children can try to overcome failure, accept it and aim to be the best next time.”
Yet another reality show in the offing is, “Dance Khoray Dance.”
But the question arises: is it right to see children begging for votes and crying on live TV show?