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Dipstick: Do reality shows put too much pressure on kids?

Director Shoojit Sircar has thrown up a debate by saying reality shows for kids should be banned. BestMediaInfo asked industry experts if it is at all right or wrong to feature children in such programmes

Children always bring cuteness to the content they associate with. They work like magic, be it the on-going SaReGaMaPa Little Champs which is gathering amazing viewership for Zee TV, or the dance reality show Super Dancer on Sony, which was the only non-fiction show to be listed in the top 10 most watched shows in 2016. Both shows have children at the forefront, showcasing their talent along with loads of cuteness.

Indian television has always been using children to add cuteness and innocence to the content. Be it fictions like Udaan, Ganga, Balika Vadhu, Shakti, Santoshi Ma, NamKaran, Veera, KaalaTeeka or Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, or the reality shows that include names like The Voice Kids, Indian Idol Junior, DID Li’l Masters and India’s Best Dramebaaz – kids spread cheer all around them.

It has often been discussed if kids should at all be made a part of television programming since the shoot schedules and challenges are stressful. This time around, the Pandora’s Box of discussions has opened yet again, with director Shoojit Sircar saying children undergo a lot of pressure in reality shows and that he would request the authorities to ban kids in reality shows.

BestMediaInfo asked industry experts what they have to say about featuring kids in non-fiction talent hunt properties on television.

Dinesh Rathore

Dinesh Rathore, COO, Madison Media Omega

I think it is a personal decision of the child and the parent. If they are able to handle fame and pressure, they should come to participate. There is no morality on this topic. This is not the responsibility of the channel. There are a lot of films and advertisements where children participate. It is not only about reality shows, it’s about life. If a kid wants to be an actor, he has to start young. It is up to an individual. Nobody can dictate, it is about where your heart and passion lie.

K Srinivas Rao

K Srinivas Rao, National Director, Buying, MediaCom

Everyone can have a personal point of view on this. With the kind of pressure that kids have to go through, maybe it’s not correct to involve them. There’s too much of pressure from parents, performance, viewers, ratings and this is not good for kids’ psyche in the long run. While it is true that these shows offer a platform to showcase talent but maybe for shows where there is too much stress, the content can be tweaked so that there is no voting system, no competition but kids can just come perform and go. No need to compete with each other.

Broadcaster (on condition of anonymity)

What are we worried about? Are we worried about competition? But competition is there in every field – including sports and studies. This is a wrong discussion. There is no right or wrong here. Kids work in movies too. There is so much exposure available for kids today, can you limit that? It is very irrelevant to talk about this. However, what Sircar has said that the children should not be forced to behave adult-ish, I agree. But in all the shows that I have worked with (and I have worked with a lot of reality shows with kids), the children have never been mistreated. All children are doing well in their lives. It’s not money making too, channels don’t play the children. Sports too need rigorous practice and long hours of working out, but that doesn’t make sports a bad thing. I agree with Sircar that there should be restraint, but extra-curricular activities are equally important.

Deepak Rajadhyaksha

Deepak Rajadhyaksha, Deputy Business Head, Zee TV

There is immense talent in our country that does goes unnoticed and unapplauded and that audiences want to see them perform, excel and win is undeniable. Zee TV has been at the forefront of tapping this talent and shaping their careers in the fields of dance, singing and acting. These were vocations otherwise not considered mainstream but with Zee TV's initiative, have increasingly begun to feature among parents’ for possible career choices. The attempt, over the years, has been to spot truly deserving raw talent and hone their skills through exposure to the right mentors, jury members and some of the finest singers, music composers and experts in the industry.

The children are exposed to the camera and are better-equipped to handle the pressure of being in the spotlight. The child gets a sense of achievement and a boost of confidence by performing on national television. We have counsellors and psychologists on board who monitor the children. The kids have their own schedules to follow, where they get time to study and play as well. The children who are a part of our reality shows have their parents or adult family members always around. We make sure that the kids are looked after well and not forced to do anything against their own will.

If the need arises or in an emergency, the participants also have the right to leave the show. Recently two of our participants from the current season of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs from Kolkata and Orissa who were extremely talented, had to leave the show due to personal reasons. +And, we supported them wholeheartedly. I agree there is competition on reality shows, but it is for the makers to ensure that it is only of the healthy kind. The show serves as an inspiration to countless children across the country, who after seeing other kids of their age perform are inspired to similarly achieve. Furthermore, we have a dedicated team named ‘Zee Talent’ that handles the careers of the contestants from all our reality shows. They are given opportunities to perform in India and abroad. So it’s a win-win for the kids!


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