Wednesday, December 14, 2005

how do you talk to a wall?

"Condom Machine sparks row in India"

I should have known. Sometimes you don't even need to wait to click the link to a news story to know this is something that is really REALLY going to piss you off. Now take this story which I got off Reuters; which talks about the opposition some Muslim groups have in Tamil Nadu against condom dispensing machines in the State. Why? Because they believe this will promote sex outside marriage. By the way, the party creating all the havoc calls itself the Muslim Progressive Party. Yeah, I really see how progressive they are.

India has over five million AIDS patients, second only to South Africa. I've been reading a lot on AIDS in India of late. Over the years I have to admit the Indian government has taken taken responsibility about the disease. I remember a time when we refused to admit we had a problem or release official numbers. (I don't know if we have accurate numbers now, but we're talking about it, and that IS something.) When you drive through Delhi now, you can see posters educating people about the nature of the disease- the radio is filled with programs as is the television. Clinton was talking about the work of his foundation in battling AIDS in various parts of the world on BBC. He mentioned that while India might have a large population that has contracted the disease, we also have a large army of doctors and nurses who have reached even the remotest of areas- something many other developing countries do not.

But at the same time, because of the sexual nature of the disease, it is so difficult to get people to look at it as a 'disease' in the first place. [I think the stigma somehow makes it seem that if you have AIDS you are clearly having yhr sort of sex you are not meant to be having.. homosexual, pre-marital, extra-marital... and God's punishing you.]Clearly the situation we face in the country at present is not good- but what annoys me so much is that while health workers, NGOs and (fortunately!!) the government is picking up the slack, you find some parties going on and on about morals and how we encourage our young to have sex if we actually talk about the fact that them having sex might result in them contracting a fatal disease for which there is no cure. And whats worse is that if these people are so passionate about this subject then one would imagine they have some knowledge of it.. and if they do, how the hell can they oppose these schemes that are aimed at prevention?! I can understand civilians (I'm distinguishing citizens not involved with this crisis from those that are) who have misgivings; thats what the awareness campaigns are there for, but people who speak with authority when they have none is so damaging.

I really believe there needs to be an overhaul of the education system in India. Not only at the elementary and high school level but we need some form of adult education that works. Knowing the way the average minds ticks in India, perhaps we could have Amitabh Bacchan play an AIDS victim... or the father of one. I bet that would do some good. They say know your audience. I'm really trying. There's no point in preaching to the converted, and I believe visual communication is one of the most effective ways. If you see something that you identify as non threatning, then perhaps you will come to accept it. Like putting a human face to people with AIDS-- but it needs to be accessible. If you tell someone they are going to watch an educational documentary about something they have condemned; chances are they will not want to. So info-tainment might be the best option for awareness in India. All these thoughts are stemming out of the incredible amount of reading I've been doing on development communication but I think this is a valid point.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

arrested.... development?

For those of you who have never seen Fox's brilliant and absolutely hilarious sitcom- Arrested Development, I have to say, you are missing out on something. Really. In the US, over two seasons the show could not get over 4 million viewers. Fox has now cut down the third season to just 13 episodes, although it has told the producers that they can shop around to see if any new network would like to pick it up. Rumour has it that Showtime might just. Most of us blame Fox for not promoting the show in the manner it deserves, and we also blame people for not "getting" it because it does not spell out every single joke for the audience (no laugh tracks)... in fact, oh hell, PLEASE watch it. Its just brilliant.

Someone pointed out something about prefering watching the show on DVD rather than waiting for weekly episodes. In fact, Nielson viewer ratings don't take these factors into consideration. Do we need new ways to measure the audience? Take for instance how DVD sales of TV shows are climbing higher- I've pre-ordered season 2 on DVD myself (its not out in England yet). I'm taking a media economics class, and everyday we talk about convergence- what it means to the media industry- how the consumer has more choice--- pay per view- downloading off the internet (albeit illegal now)-- consumer trends are changing because of the rapid changes in choices. So for networks to cancel a show that actually has a very strong- but small TV base- but a large DVD audience--- is that smart? Joss Whedon was so sure that his show Firefly had an audience (although it was cancelled) that he made Serenity and the movie did fantastically well. Family Guy was taken off the air, and then brought back due to popular demand.

The way we consume television is rapidly changing. I don't have a TV on campus but I watch the news online- I stream BBC shows, I watch Daily Show clips. Tivo caught on because people do not want to be held hostage by a Friday night line-up. The consumer should be king; and with newer technology and better choices this is the fact now.

So, to sum up, if I were Fox, or any large network with a show that was immensely popular, critically hailed as the best TV comedy etc .. but my ratings were not adding up, I'd think twice about cancellation. The message is the medium isn't it? Well, we have more than one medium when it comes to commercial television, so why limit ourselves? A revolution in technology should now be followed by a revolution in programming. And anyway, whats the point in having a gazillion channels if they all show the same crap or re-runs of things we've seen before. Power to the people I say!