KARACHI: The stage is set. The guests are lined up and the bride is just about to enter the venue as the groom looks on. Just as she makes her grand entry, the studio erupts in applause. This is not a scene from a grand desi wedding but an account of what happens on Pakistani morning shows almost on a daily basis. A morning show host then walks in and introduces the couple.
When it comes to television content, it is made to capitalise. We all know that, we all get it. The scripts of such shows are written to cater to mostly lower middle to lower classes as the producers revel in making shows look like the audience’s fantasy.
The target audience of morning shows is not the ones who sit behind a keyboard and rant; the target audience is someone who has wishes – the same wishes that can be fulfilled by the cathartic experience provided by the producers of such morning shows. The target audience is what is primarily termed as the lowest common denominator.
But here’s the bigger question: Does this justify the abysmal, divisive and intellectually corrupt content that has been airing for quite some time. Not really.
Sanam Baloch invited VJ Mathira and actor Babar Khan on her morning show a couple of weeks ago. The whole episode revolved around their personal lives. While Babar was asked about his wife, Sana Khan, who passed away in a car accident, Mathira was asked to reflect on her divorce with DJ Flint J.
It takes no genius to deduce that it would have been traumatising for the two to recall such heartbreaking incidents. As Mathira talked about her broken marriage – all the while putting up a strong front – one cannot miss how shaky her voice became at one point. The insensitivity didn’t end there.
Twitter had a meltdown over an episode of the same morning show with Aamir Liaquat and his newly-wedded wife Tuba Aamir as guests. The couple was shown having banter with the show’s host – an awkward one at that – which quickly escalated to the famed TV personality degrading his first wife on national television.
The 47-year-old TV personality was called out on social media for his sexist comments. Him, along with Sanam were questioned why his first wife, Bushra, wasn’t called on the show to present her side of the argument. In a nutshell the misogyny of the whole episode was baffling.
It is also possible that the particular guests invited to the show might have actually wanted to stir up a controversy in an attempt to get back in the limelight – but hear me out. While interviewing Aamir, Sanam kept probing him to speak out against his first wife. She kept divulging into his personal life, which might not be an issue for Aamir himself but it was compromising someone else’s character on live television.
If the script of such shows is mutually decided between the guests and the hosts than it is a new low – or perhaps we are just getting to know about this. But if it’s not, then as a moderator, one should hold a position of such influence with responsibility and with the greater wellbeing of society in mind.
Nida Yasir, Sahir Lodhi and others are just a few in a long line of showmen and women who have taken the low-brow content even lower. They have triggered conflicts that weren’t needed and epitomised almost unattainable standards of beauty and riches, removing even the last bit of social fulfillment from an already deprived segment of society. Be it home remedies to tackle acne or shortcuts to shed those extra pounds right before the wedding season, the morning shows have always been a party to the problem.
The bigger question, however, is what can be done to fix that?
Ask better questions:
We all like juicy gossip. There’s no denying that. But when you are a public figure and somewhat influential – it is best to think twice before making wretched comments on national television. Case in point: the whole drama with Aamir and Tuba’s episode could have been avoided only if Sanam would have posed her questions better.
Make content the star of the show:
If you look at the morning shows of today, you’d find a known star heading the show. While that might work well for numbers, the content is lost along the way. It would be the host’s face that brings in the audience – I’m sure we could utilise that better.
Risk your TRP for research:
I will agree to the fact that at the end of the day it’s all about TRP (Television Rating Point). But for once, can the makers try and risk the numbers for research? Bring in informative topics, raise awareness, start a conversation. Who knows the risk might pay bigger dividends in the long run? After all we didn’t inherit this morning show format from the PTV era, someone took the risk and every other channel executive followed.
Let private life stay private:
When Aamir Liaquat responded to trolls who criticised his second marriage, he remarked that he would like to keep his personal life, personal. However, when he made appearances on several morning shows, he did anything but.
Channel heads can make sure producers and hosts who don’t understand the sensitivities involved with a massive medium like TV and celebrities who are aloof to the intricacies and mannerism that a public platform demands – stay as far away from the floor as possible.
For we live in the times of naming and shaming and no matter how successful your attempt at bad humour, racism, slander and misogyny has proven , it will be called out – regardless of how many people care about what’s happening on social media.
It may sound like I’m preaching to choir and maybe it is actually a war that is not winnable anymore but it is still a problem. If all fails, the least you can do is not turn morning shows into public platforms of personal outrage.
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