No quiz shows for children any more

The Television Rating Points (TRP) war among channels and the audience demand for song, dance and reality shows have driven knowledge-based content out of the Indian television screens.

Now parents are complaining.

Sangeeta Aggarwal, a mother of two teenagers, said: "First, there were saas-bahu shows that were popular. Now there are either rural-based shows or reality shows like 'Bigg Boss' - what can I allow my kids to watch?"

Aggarwal says earlier they used to look forward to "Bournvita Quiz Contest" at noon every Sunday, but now the "violent and insensible shows" often keep her away from the small screen.

According to Siddhartha Basu, one of the pioneers of quiz and game reality shows in India, the "simplest" reason for the absence of quiz shows is "ratings".

"Knowledge-based shows and English- language programmes rarely show up well on the ratings chart. So unless a quiz show ties up with a broadcaster's or advertiser's profile, it becomes an endangered species," Basu said.

"People meters, which measure ratings in 7,000-odd homes out of the around 75 million TV households in the country, seem to be placed where the only ones watching are women of a certain age and kind. So the dominant trend reflected is mainly an affinity for stories of suffering women (as of now)," he added.

Shows like "Bournvita Quiz Contest", "Quiz Time", "Spectrum", "The India Quiz", "Mastermind India", "University Challenge", "Kaun Banega Crorepati" as well as "India's Child Genius" formed quite a chunk of TV programming earlier, but they are nowhere in the picture now.

What rules are reality shows like "Bigg Boss" and "Pati, Patni Aur Woh" that offer masala to an adult audience, but nothing for children. Ace quizmaster Derek O'Brien, who has conducted quiz shows on six TV channels and hosted quiz contests in 11 countries, including the US and Pakistan, agrees.

"I am usually an optimist, but I cannot think of a single show currently on Indian television which makes knowledge interesting to help people grow. Sadly, a lot of the focus today is on masala reality," he said.

Shailja Kejriwal, who has been in the TV industry for over a decade, is optimistic and says quiz shows will be back soon. But she isn't sure if children will welcome such content as there has been a major shift in their taste over the years.

"There were a whole lot of quiz shows with different concepts earlier. Content on TV is cyclical. I feel quiz shows too are waiting in some corner to happen because they haven't been aired for a long time now," said Kejriwal, content head of NDTV Imagine.

She also pointed out that now children prefer surfing the Internet to watching TV.

"Kids have changed and their tastes are constantly changing. They head straight to the Internet rather than going to the books for any information. As far as television is concerned, they usually watch what they aren't supposed to. They enjoy watching reality shows with song and dance and basically whatever is fun," she said.

Danish Khan, vice president (Marketing) of Sony TV, rules out the need for knowledge-based content for children. "Children of today's generation don't need to watch TV to increase their knowledge. They have access to the Internet, where information regarding everything is available. They go for gaming on their mobiles, so why develop special TV shows?" he asked.

"There are channels like Pogo, Disney and Bindass that offer content for kids. Even general entertainment channels have a lot to offer. The younger ones can watch cartoons, slightly older ones go for song-based or dance-based shows and there is also a section that goes for shows like 'Roadies' and 'Splitsvilla'," he added.

Siddhartha Basu suggested: "If children need value addition on the knowledge front, I'd say watch less TV. Or rather, watch very selectively."

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