Please don't stop the music...

Telly Talk

Please don't stop the music...

 Music man: VJ turned host Nikhil Chinapa Not while walking past a TV store, or from the small screen at my chai stop or the train station. I can only hear people talking, voices rising, but no melodious notes. Where did all the music go? The ones that I grew up watching every day on channels like MTV, Channel V, Zoom etc? Is it just me or does nobody miss it at all?

We all know that the reality-show format is a hit with TV producers ( the lucky-strike, as it is referred to) and advertisers alike.  There is one version of it on every Indian mainstream channel. Ten second spots on reality shows like Masterchef Australia and Indian Idol have never cost more — be it MTV, Channel V, Colors, UTV Bindaas or NDTV — you name it, they have it. There are more than 10 top reality shows that air on Indian television today, to whet any kind of appetite. So why wouldn’t music channels go the same way too and have mercy on the loyal music-loving fanbase? A decade ago, a large chunk of our population thrived on the songs that flowed out of the TV set into their lives, no questions asked. Now gone are those days of eagerly awaiting Nikhil Chinapa and Shahnaz to appear on your screen at 4 pm, only to take your calls and play your favourite song.

Overnight, programming content changed, VJs left, logos were “redesigned”, music video tapes were boxed and moved into the attic. The same group of people continue to wait eagerly to catch a glimpse of the good old singers of hip hop, rap or rock even today. Now, however, both channels have severely cut back on music programming, in favour of reality shows or game shows; they play roughly 40-50 per cent less music than they did in 2000, and nearly all of what they play is extracted from Bollywood films.

In 2009, when MTV modified and removed the ‘Music Television’ tag, it was noted by the channel spokesperson and the media as a move to bring it in sync with MTV’s changing image from not just music but to a whole range of youth-oriented content. They also cited that the Indian audience now preferred to watch more than just the regular song-dance routine. While nobody is questioning faith here, it is important to note that it is not just the viewer who feels cheated but inherent talent too.

VJs to young rockers feel like they have been left in the lurch. While former VJ Nikhil Chinapa went to concentrate on radio and disc jockeying, Mini Mathur tried her hand at hosting Indian Idol and making guest appearances on the silver screen. But the number of VJs who have managed to move on to greener pastures are few. Not many have been lucky enough like the former two.

Existing music channels embracing wider content is one thing. But to have new channels also follow the herd is something else. And the terminology that most of these channels seem to have adopted is ‘youth-oriented’. Some channels have even adopted the name despite dedicating a large chunk of their content to music. Why can’t one of them attempt a niche identity and stick to it?

Channel producers and advertisers cite reasons like divided viewership and content conflict for such changes. So in India, does it mean that the only formula that works is a mix of reality shows with Bollywood music?

Call it experimentation or a new trend in Indian television, but there still remains a percentage of viewers who still expect to see their favourite VJ or rock band all through the day.

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