It’s true, trash TV sells
I entered the world of television in Pakistan aiming to inform and educate people through this powerful medium of expression. I took immense pride in my job but the comfort bubble burst soon enough.
Not so long ago, I realised that everyone on TV is like a salesman, trying hard to sell a product. Sometimes the salesman goes to any length to make a living out of the product being sold.
When you go to buy a product, every salesman tries to get your attention and aims to convince you that his product is the best (even if that product can kill you). That is exactly how our television industry works.
Every television journalist, anchor, cameramen, editor, director, producer is out there to get your attention. And they don’t care if you like them or hate them. Their agenda is to get attention, and some will go to any length without realising the aftermath.
Let’s take the recent example of Maya Khan who was trying to bust poor couples in public parks. We all hated her for it but she got attention for her behaviour. She had the perfect recipe for something that sells. The aunty and mummy brigade running after couples in public parks, morally policing them, checking their note books and so on. The drama in the park got attention. The show was a hit.
It inspired me to prepare a list of what sells on TV. You are welcome to add to it:
1. Religion, especially moral policing sells like sex and violence in our country. Example: Mullah Maya and Aamir Liaquat.
2. Showing poverty in any form is the emotional pornography of Pakistan television. Example: Shabbir Tou Dhekhae Ga)
3. Depicting reality as a re-enactment – it doesn’t matter how exaggerated it is. Example: Meri Kahani Meri Zabani.
4. The exploitation of women sells in all forms, whether it’s poor innocent women at the mercy of a rich husband and mother-in-law (example Humsafar) or poor innocent women in farms/ seeking jobs who are raped by landlords or directors. Rape sells like hot cakes, even in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
5. Horror shows are big hits no matter how fake and staged they may look. Example: Woh Kya Hai, Pur Israr and so on.
6. Outdoor shows purely based on vox pops of citizens bashing the government for being corrupt. According to these shows the government is responsible for everything wrong in Pakistan.
7. Morning shows. Gaudy clothes and loud make-up sell, along with all the emotional drama and staging of marriage ceremonies. Every morning show hosts’s favourite topic is shaadi, shaadi and shaadi.
8. Late night political talk shows. Our very own senior journalists-cum-Nostrdamus-wannabes predict every evening that Pakistan is coming to an end the following day. Example: Aaj Kamran Khan Kay Sath, Kal Tak, Jasmine Manzoor, MeherBhukhari etc.
9. The Indian soap opera inspired dishum dishum sound effects that have become a requirement for all editors and is used as an important tool to sensationalise a story for the masses. (Example Adhi Raat Tak).
10. Crime shows are every channel’s star products. They are usually aired during prime time to get higher ratings.
11. The use of Bollywood ‘item numbers’ in news bulletins. From Munni Badnaam Hui and Sheila Ki Jawani to Jalebi Bai, all are a visual treat for the audience.
12. The chappa (raid) shows. We all love watching other people getting busted. Whether it’s a poor sabziwala who is selling high priced vegetables or Maya Khan in parks hunting for a nikkah nama. In these shows, the host is playing judge, jury and executioner. Here’s another example:
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