It is a longstanding question whether the practice of quantitative analysis of Television shows with TRP needs a change with a qualitative analysis system. The matter has been a hot topic of discussion for a long time. The recent comment by the Kerala State Television Award Jury’s statement on the quality of content had once again sparked the debate in this aspect.
The Malayalam Tele serials were yet again criticized in harsh language for their content quality during the declaration of the 29th Kerala State Television Award. The award jury stated that no teleserials in Malayalam were found worthy of the best teleserial, second-best teleserial, best director, and best art director award categories as the entries haven’t met any artistic value and technical excellence. The award jury chaired by filmmaker R Sharath also voiced their deep concern over the inappropriate portrayal of women and children in TV programmes. The creators need to be more responsible with their content quality.
This is not for the first time that the teleserial segment in Malayalam is being snubbed for their content; the award jury of the 28th Kerala Television awards jury decided not to award the best teleserial as there were no deserving entries. The same year, no awards were given in the best short film for children and the best article on television categories, and the jury commented that none of the entries was made to understand that it was meant for children.
A few months back, during a channel discussion, Kerala Cultural Minister made a statement that the censorship of Malayalam Television serials centred on unscientific and superstitious themes will be evaluated and considered with utmost seriousness. The minister’s statement sparked controversy, which died down within no time. The statement made by the award jury is now a hot topic of discussion on social media platforms. The Mega serials telecast in all languages in the country are often snubbed for their theme and how they portray human relationships—most of them glorifying the sacrifices and abuses of women in the household. Enough has been discussed about the content quality and themes, but no significant changes have occurred on the same.
The industry experts blame the unscientific TRP ratings and the fundamental issues with the award criteria.
“The Kerala State Television Jury’s statement on the absence of technical and artistic talent elements in the Malayalam serials and due to which no serials were worth the state award this year is a fact,” said Anil Ayroor, Group COO, Flowers TV & 24.
“Why because the Television channel’s survival depends upon the TRP rating. During the content creation process, every content is monitored through minute wise split rating and due to which the creative department is forced to write engaging content. In my opinion, an unscientific rating mechanism that leads to temptations for keeping the audience engaged is the root cause of low-quality content. This is just not the case with Malayalam content; it’s applicable on a pan India level,” he further said.
“The award criteria are fundamentally wrong, and the governmental authorities should take necessary steps to change the existing rules of State Television awards, said G Bhavachithra Jayakumar, Producer and Chairman, Malayalam Television Fraternity.
According to Jayakumar, the award follows the pattern of the Doordarshan era, where serials with 52 episodes are considered to compete for the award categories. The concept of serials has changed from tele to mega serials. Mega serials are a massive hit amongst the audiences and garner high Television ratings.
“It’s not wise to comment on a mass entertainment segment while following award criteria that haven’t witnessed any changes in the last 25-30 years. You cannot compare Kathakali (a classical Indian dance form) and Drama; the same applies to Television serials and Cinema. The Jury chair and members are from the film background; it is an injustice to allow them to judge Mega Serials. Since there is no grammar or parameters fixed for Mega serials, no points avoiding or neglecting it in the name of “eligible quality “as such,” added Jayakumar.
P Dinesh Panicker, Actor, Producer, and General Secretary of the Association of Television Media Artistes (ATMA), is of a similar opinion.
“People from the film background are the jurors for the Television awards; similar practice is not seen while assessing film awards. There is an existing practice of berating Television serials that garners high TRP ratings, which means they are entertainment providers for a mass audience. The serial production units function with limited budgets and technical assistance; they can never be compared with big-budgeted movies. The statement by the jury has demoralized the serial scriptwriters, directors, actors, and the entire team,” said Panicker.
“The objective of General Entertainment Channels (GEC) is to provide entertainment and engage the audience. If a particular content can garner TRP ratings, that simply means that there is a huge audience acceptance there. For the Television channels, TRP ratings are the bible. Now, coming to the themes of the serials, just because one or two serials are based on similar themes, it is not fair to generalize the entire content provided. In Kerala, there is a common practice, where the opinion of a section of people is being considered as a general opinion, serials wouldn’t garner TRP ratings if the public didn’t accept it,” added Reghu Ramachandran, Business Head, Surya TV.