Reality TV, not really real? | Bangkok Post: learning

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Reality TV, not really real?

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Are viewers of popular TV shows such as Thailand's Got Talent & Academy Fantasia being tricked and don't know it? 

Thailand’s Got Talent judges.

TV killed the reality star

A series of dubious, ratings-baiting incidents has reignited the debate about how scripted and manipulated popular entertainment programmes are
Kaona Pongpipat

...Thailand's Got Talent is still going and the 10th season of the popular Academy Fantasia, which sparked the reality-show craze here, began last week. Over the past decade, there's no doubt we have come to enjoy the novelty of "unexpected" and "unpredictable" turns of events and observe "unrehearsed" human behaviour, as opposed to other TV shows and series.

But there's no denying the oft-asked question: How real are these reality shows?...

While some are quite satisfied with this form of entertainment, a recent incident on Thailand's Got Talent when a seemingly autistic man was publicly ridiculed by the judges and the studio audience has made such questions impossible to ignore.

There is a possibility that the head of the show's production company, Workpoint Entertainment CEO Panya Nirankul, is still smiling right now. Despite (or more likely because of) that appalling incident, the show's ratings are still going strong.

Whether he is autistic or "like any other young man" as the production company claims doesn't really matter. And it didn't make much of a difference when Panya later spoke of how sorry he was for the incident, saying that it resulted from "a lack of foresight". (He was also very sorry about the incident last year when a woman took off her bra and painted with her breasts on stage.)

Actual unscripted occurrences? Or a carefully plotted narrative and planned strategy to manipulate ratings and increase commercial gains?

Are the contestants given the opportunity to show their talents? Or are they being used as tools in a marketing game? Are the viewers being entertained or are they in fact the victims who are being tricked and exploited? And where is the media ethics line that is not supposed to be crossed?

The Star is one of the most popular reality competitions, and there have been a few controversial cases in which the talented, not the good-looking, were eliminated from the competition, creating suspicion about whether the results really come from viewers' votes or whether it was determined from the very beginning.

In a recent interview with Thai Rath, Thakolkiat Veeravan, an executive of Exact Co which produces the show, firmly denied the allegation, explaining that The Star is a research show to find the person the general public admires and the winner comes from the voting process.

"If you say that the show is a set-up, it's not only an insult to me and my company, but to our entertainment industry and fellow human beings," he said.

But to Suppakorn Chuthapol, an advertising graduate who has watched almost every episode of Academy Fantasia and The Star and has written an analysis of the strategies they use, it is quite the opposite. He believes there are definitely some set-up tactics involved in most shows.

"Even though it's called 'reality' , at the end of the day it's another type of business. In every business, there must be a marketing plan. There is no way they will let things happen without control. Business entrepreneurs try their best to minimise the risks by thoroughly planning out the strategies," he said.

He believes shows like Thailand's Got Talent, Academy Fantasia and The Star are trying to turn contestants into idols for commercial purposes.

"The idols or the artists are their products. If we were the business owners, we would want quality products which can create a trend and stir up the ratings. Of course they can't wait for people to wait in line and sign up like we see in show footage, several contestants who have qualified for the next round are from modelling agencies or are directly approached by the staff."

For independent mass communications scholar Dr Kitti Gunpai, these competitions are a construction rather than a representation of reality.

''They are entertainment programmes for a mass audience,'' he says. ''The production techniques require script writing, shooting with various angles and editing to create a narrative that viewers can understand, for example, creating the roles for each contestant in the competition like a villain or a hero.

''The producers' intention is to seek profit rather than give something intellectual to the viewers because they are responsible for the company and its shareholders' interest. Consequently, sometimes they forget about the issue of ethics.''

Another question is whether the viewers realise that what they're watching is not all real .... Suppakorn thinks audiences are aware, but only to the extent that the shows allow them to be.

''People just like the entertainment, they won't be analysing the strategies which the shows are using on them. For example in Academy Fantasia and The Star, there are usually couples who are especially intimate, and the audience just enjoys observing what they say and guessing about when they are going to hug each other. They will keep voting for that couple to stay on and this is just like how they enjoy watching TV series.''

Dr Kitti adds that viewers are like fish that don't see the water they are in...

In the increasingly complicated relationship between shows' producers and the audience, Suppakorn thinks viewers are being entertained, but at the same time exploited without realising it.

''For example, the shows present some contestants' poor backgrounds in an exaggerated manner,'' he says.

''They use viewers' sympathy as a tool to urge viewers to vote more. The shows might think they aren't doing anything wrong because they are just portraying real life. But actually they are putting the responsibility to vote to the viewers.''

Suppakorn adds that viewers have to always be aware of what the shows are trying to do to them, what kind of emotion they are trying to make them feel and whether that will eventually influence how they feel compelled to vote. In the end, viewers are like victims, not only in terms of voting, but how the show can make them feel anything they want.

Dr Kitti says right now most viewers are ''passive audience' ' members who are being controlled by the producers. There are very few organisations or ''active audience' ' members out there who constantly examine these shows.

''They don't have to be all real. Just don't write a script and trick people to stir up the ratings. Producers should study more about ethics to heighten the standard of Thai media,'' he says.

As for the future of this kind of show, Dr Kitti thinks that we should be optimistic that Thai viewers are going to be smarter and one day these shows will be less and less popular.

Learn from listening

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admire: to respect somebody for what they are or for what they have done - ชมเชย,ยกย่องสรรเสริญ

advertising: telling the public about a product or a service, political candidate, etc. in order to encourage people to buy, use or support it - การโฆษณา

agency: a company that arranges for some service or workers to be provided to other companies and people - บริษัทตัวแทน, สำนักงานตัวแทน, หน่วยงานบริการ

allegation: an accusation; a statement that someone has done something wrong or illegal even though this has not been proved - ข้อกล่าวหา

analysis: the detailed study or examination of something in order to understand more about it; the result of the study - การวิเคราะห์

angle: the shape, measured in degrees, that is made where two surfaces or objects meet; the direction from which something comes, or the direction from which you look at something, especially when it is not directly in front of you - มุม

appalling: shocking; extremely bad - ซึ่งทำให้ตกใจ

audience: the people who watch an event happen - ผู้ชม

autistic: a person suffering from autism which makes it difficult to communicate and react to other people - ออทิสติ, ความคิดหมกมุ่นในตนเองอย่างผิดปกติ

aware: to know that something exists, or to have knowledge or experience of a particular thing - ทราบ

background: the type of career, training, or education that someone has had - ประวัติ

bait: something that is offered in order to persuade someone to do something or buy something - สิ่งล่อใจ

behaviour: the way that someone acts or behaves - พฤติกรรม, การกระทำตัว

bra: a piece of women's underwear worn to cover and support the breasts - เสื้อชั้นในสตรี

breast: either of the two round soft parts at the front of a woman's body that produce milk when she has had a baby - หน้าอก

commercial: for business purposes - เกี่ยวกับการค้า

communications: the process of sending information through television, radio, and telephone signals - การสื่อสาร

compelled: forced to do something - ถูกบังคับ

competition: an organised event in which people try to win prizes by being better than other people - การแข่งขัน

complicated: difficult to deal with, do or understand - ซับซ้อน

consequently: as a result; therefore - ดังนั้น

constantly: continuously; all the time - อย่างต่อเนื่อง

construction: the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. - การก่อสร้าง

contestant: someone who competes in a contest - ผู้แข่งขัน

controversial: causing disagreement or disapproval - ซึ่งก่อให้เกิดการโต้แย้ง

couple: two people who are married or are involved in a romantic relationship - คุ่รัก

craze: an enthusiastic interest in something that is shared by many people but that usually does not last very long; a thing that people have a craze for - ความนิยม (ในช่วงระยะสั้นๆ)

cross the line: to go beyond what is allowed or acceptable -

debate: a discussion in which people or groups state different opinions about a subject - การอภิปราย, การโต้วาที, การถกเถียง

decade: a period of ten years - ทศวรรษ, ระยะเวลา 10 ปี

deny: to say that something is not true - ปฏิเสธ

determined: found out; discovered; decided - ระบุชี้ชัด, ตัดสินใจ

dubious: thought not to be completely true or not able to be trusted - อย่างสงสัย

edit: to prepare a text, tape or film for use by correcting mistakes and deciding what will be removed and what will be kept in, etc - ตัดตอ

eliminate: to cause or require to leave (a competition) - ทำให้ออก

emotion: strong feeling such as anger or love, or strong feelings in general - อารมณ์

entertainment: fun; behaviour or activities that are not serious but come from a sense of enjoyment - ความบันเทิง, ความสนุกสนาน

entrepreneur: someone who starts their own business, especially when this involves risks - นักลงทุนทางการเงิน

episode: one of the single parts into which a story is divided, especially when it is broadcast on the television or radio - ตอน

ethics: a set of principles people use to decide what is right and what is wrong - จริยธรรม

eventually: at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process - ในที่สุด

exaggerate: to describe something in a way that makes it seem better, worse, larger, more important etc than it really is - กล่าวเกินจริง

examine: to look at somebody/something closely, to see if there is anything wrong or to find the cause of a problem - ตรวจ

executive: a senior manager in a business or other organisation - ผู้บริหาร

exploit: to treat someone unfairly in order to get some benefit for yourself - หาประโยชน์จาก

exploit: to use unfairly for your own benefit - เอาเปรียบ, หาประโยชน์ใส่ตัว

extent: the degree to which something happens or is likely to happen - ขอบเขต

fellow: used for talking about people who are similar to you or are in the same situation - เพื่อนร่วมชะตากรรม

firmly: in a strong or definite way - อย่างหนักแน่น

footage: film or video of a particular subject or event - ฟิลม์หรือคลิปภาพยนตร์ หรือวิดีโอ

general public: people in general - ประชาชน, สาธารณชน, มหาชน

graduate: a person who has a university degree - ผู้รับปริญญา, ผู้สำเร็จการศึกษา

guess: to try and give an answer or make a judgement about something without being sure of all the facts - เดา

hero: a person, especially a man, who is admired by many people for doing something brave or good - วีรบุรุษ

hug: to put your arms round someone - กอด

idol: a person or thing that is loved and admired very much - คนหรือสิ่งที่ได้รับความชื่นชมหรือคลั่งไคล้อย่างมาก

ignore: to fail to pay attention to; to pretend that you have not noticed or do not know about something - เพิกเฉย

incidents: events which are either unpleasant or unusual - เหตุการณ์

independent: not connected with or influenced by something (e.g., not being a member of a political party); not connected with each other - ซึ่งเป็นอิสระ, ไม่ขึ้นกับใคร

influence: to affect or change how someone or something develops, behaves or thinks - มีอิทธิพลต่อ, ชักจูง อำนาจบังคับ

insult: to say or do something to someone that is rude or offensive - พูดแดกดัน, พูดจาบจ้วง

intention: a plan in your mind to do something - ความตั้งใจ เจตนา แผนการ

interest: an advantage or benefit to someone or something - ผลประโยชน์

interview: to ask someone questions for a poll, a newspaper article, television show, etc. - สัมภาษณ์,

intimate: very close, friendly and personal - คุ้นเคย, ใกล้ชิด, สนิทสนม

issue: a problem that needs to be considered - ประเด็น

judge: a person who helps make the decision about who wins a competition such as a talent show or beauty pageant -

manipulate: to control something or someone to your advantage, often unfairly or dishonestly - จัดการเพื่อหวังผลอย่างใดอย่างหนึ่ง

manner: way - ลักษณะท่าทาง, กิริยาท่าทาง, วิธีการ

media: newspapers, television, radio, etc. - สื่อ

minimise: to reduce something harmful or unpleasant to the smallest amount or degree - ลดให้เหลือน้อยที่สุด

modelling: the work of a model, a person who wears clothes to show them to buyers - การเดินแบบ

narrative: a description of events, especially in a story or novel - เรื่องเล่า

observe: to watch or study someone or something with care - สังเกตการณ์

occurrence: something that happens - เหตุการณ์

oft: often -

opportunity: a chance to do something, or a situation in which it is easy for you to do something - โอกาส

optimistic: expecting good things to happen or to be successful - มองโลกในแง่ดี

passive: accepting what happens or what people do without trying to change anything or take action - อยู่เฉยๆ, ไม่ดิ้นรน, ไม่ดิ้นรน, เฉื่อย

plot: the series of events that form the story of a novel, play, film/movie, etc. - เนื้อเรื่อง

popular: a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - เป็นที่นิยม, เป็นที่ชื่นชอบ

portray: to represent or describe someone or something in a painting, film, book or other artistic work - แสดง, พรรณนา

possibility: the fact that something might exist or happen, but is not certain to - สิ่งที่เป็นไปได้

process: a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result - แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ

production: a film/movie, a play or a broadcast that is prepared for the public; the act of preparing a film or a play, etc - ละครหรือภาพยนตร์ที่มีคนจำนวนมากร้องเพลง/เต้นรำ

publicly: intending to be seen or heard by people in general - อย่างเปิดเผย

purpose: the intention to achieve something - ความตั้งใจ, ความประสงค์, ความปรารถนา, ความตั้งใจ

qualified: able to do something, because you have the knowledge, skill, or experience that is needed - มีคุณวุฒิเหมาะสม, มีคุณสมบัติ

ratings: a measure of the a TV show's popularity and how large its audience is -

realise: to know about - ตระหนัก  รู้

reality: what is actually happening - ความเป็นจริง

reignite: to cause something bad to begin again - ทำให้ (ปัญหา) ลุกลามอีกครั้ง

relationship: the way in which two people, groups or countries behave towards each other or deal with each other - ความสัมพันธ์

research: a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - การวิจัย

responsible: deserving to be blamed for something that has happened - มีความรับผิดชอบ

ridicule: to make somebody/something look silly by laughing at them or it in an unkind way - เยาะเย้ย, ล้อเลียน

risk: the possibility that something dangerous or unpleasant might happen - ความเสี่ยง

role: an actor's part in a film or play - บทละคร

satisfied: pleased because you have achieved something or because something that you wanted to happen has happened - พอใจ

scholar: someone who studies a particular subject and knows a lot about it, especially a subject that is not scientific - นักวิชาการ

script: a written text of a play, film/movie, broadcast, talk, etc - ตัวเขียน,ต้นฉบับ, บท

scripted: planned before and therefore not natural - เป็นบทละคร

seemingly: according to what you know or how something appears, - ตามที่ปรากฏ

series: a set of TV broadcasts on the same subject or using the same characters but in different situations - หนังชุด

set-up: a situation planned in advance to make something appear true/real when it is not -

shareholder: a person who owns some of the equal parts into which the ownership of a company is divided - ผู้ถือหุ้น

spark: to make something happen - ก่อให้เกิด

standards: a level of quality that is normal or acceptable for a particular person or in a particular situation - มาตรฐาน, บรรทัดฐาน

strategy: a plan or method for achieving something, especially over a long period of time - ยุทธวิธี, แผนการ  

suspicion: a feeling that something bad is probably true or likely to happen - ความสงสัย

sympathy: a natural feeling of kindness and understanding that you have for someone who is experiencing something very unpleasant - ความเห็นอกเห็นใจ

tactics: particular methods for achieving something - วิธีการ  ไม้เด็ด

talent: a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught - ความสามารถพิเศษ

technique: a method of doing something using a special skill that you have developed - เทคนิค, กลวิธี (เฉพาะด้าน)

thorough: very complete - อย่างละเอียดรอบคอบ

trend: a new development in clothing, make-up, etc - แนวโน้ม

trick: something that you do to make somebody believe something which is not true - การหลอกลวง, การเล่นกล

turn of events: the way a situation develops and ends -

unpredictable: changing often, in a way that is impossible to prepare for - ซึ่งทำนายไม่ถูก, ซึ่งคาดไม่ได้

unrehearsed: done without practicing before - ไม่ได้ซ้อมก่อน

victim: someone who has been affected by a bad situation, such as a disaster, illness or an accident - เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย

villain: a criminal; a bad character in a play, film or story - ตัวร้าย

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