The nation watched with shock when Kolkata schoolgirl Shinjini Sengupta was reduced to a paralysed state following some harsh comments by a judge in a TV dance reality show that she had taken part in. Of course, the girl has recovered fully now, but her plight triggered debates all across the country and as a corollary prompted the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to recommend that children below the age of 16 years be barred from taking part in reality shows on TV.
NCPCR feels that regulations are necessary and broadcasters should endorse and follow them. The Commission said that it would prescribe the age limit for participants to be 16 years, but also added that it could be brought down to 12 years in case of group competitive shows.
The Commission has also suggested that cash awards to children should be done away with, instead educational bonds or fixed deposits should be given to them.
Earlier this year in June, the Commission had expressed concern over the fact that children participating in reality shows had to put in very long hours, including off screen rehearsals as they were being recognised for their on screen performances.
As any popular entertainment, reality shows are a reflection of the contemporary society with abounding aspirations and ambitions. People are becoming more and more competitive and looking for every opportunity to transcend the realities of their lives and strive for constant betterment.
Keertan Adyanthaya, GM & EVP, Star Plus, said, “We are responsible broadcasters and work closely with our producers to ensure that we take special care whenever we create a show with children. The objective of our shows with kids is to bring prodigious talent to the fore. If there are certain safeguards or steps that need to be taken when working with children on reality shows, we would be more than happy to comply.”
According to Yubaraj Bhattacharya, Programming & Content Head, Star Jalsha, “It is the responsibility of the parents/ guardians of children/ minors to decide what is best for their children. As custodians, they must exercise the first choice. TV channels must ensure that the children, who decide to participate in any of their shows, are well looked after. Any public performance – be it TV or competitive sports – is a high pressure act. All parties concerned must take enough precautions to ensure that the child artists are ready for such a performance.”
While agreeing that there shouldn’t be any children in reality shows, Kunal Dasgupta, CEO, Sony Entertainment Group, added, “We should not confuse talent shows with reality shows. Shows like ‘Big Brother’, ‘Fear Factor’, ‘Survivors’ or ‘MTV Roadies’ are reality shows in the true sense, while shows involving song and dance are more of talent shows in nature. Even in schools we have talent shows and competitions, extra curricular activities like drama, singing or dancing, which is perfect for a child’s development.”
He felt that the pressures of the academic system in India added a lot of stress to the children. “Even exams cause a lot of stress in children, but have we stopped the system of exams in schools? There are more instances of suicides attributed to failing in exams than failing in reality shows,” Dasgupta said. Referring to the Shinjini case, he said, “That might have been an exception and exceptions do happen.”
No one from Zee was available for comments at the time of filing this report.