Television Broadcasts (TVB)

Reality bites

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2012, 12:00am

A new TVB programme, Bride Wannabes, has stirred widespread debate since it went on air on Monday last week. This so-called reality show is nothing but a marketing vehicle for advertisers.

It is undoubtedly highly successful. In just days, it drew an estimated 1.7 million viewers, recording an average rating of 26 points. For a late-night show, that's achieving the near-impossible.

TVB has, for many years, been criticised for not producing creative and meaningful programmes. But it has the commercial touch. Since its launch, the show has become the talk of the town. So, from a commercial point of view, it's a big success. TVB has once again proved that it's still the market leader.

But despite its commercial success, the values and ideas the show represents are questionable, hence the widespread debate and criticism from academics and professionals.

The show features five single women with different backgrounds, educational levels and careers. They are described as sing lui, or leftover women, a term used to depict women of marriageable age who can't find a partner. The goal of the show is to help them find Mr Right. TVB spent six months grooming and counselling them to prepare themselves for the so-called battlefield of love. The show has enlisted the help of a group of pseudo-experts, including a life coach, a beauty specialist and a cosmetic surgeon.

The show has stirred lively online discussions. And because it's so popular, the media has dug up more details about the five sing lui, and found that their personal stories and experiences were carefully packaged for the audience. Throughout the show, the producer cleverly inserted advice from beauticians, cosmetic surgeons and dating agencies as a way to promote its commercial sponsors.

Basically, TVB tried to package a commercial programme into a reality show, and used a social issue to draw public attention in order to promote advertisers. The show set out to stir public debate so as to boost its ratings.

Some viewers have filed complaints with the Office of the Communications Authority, mostly over the show's promotion of twisted values and the fact that there were many disguised advertising placements inserted into the programme.

But, most importantly, we need to focus on the fact that TVB has possibly presented false information to misguide viewers. We have to question whether the station has breached any broadcasting regulations. Even if it hasn't, as a licensed broadcaster, TVB has a social responsibility to serve the public.

It's time for it to reflect on how to play its role in society. It can't always put profits and commercial interests first; it needs to strike a balance and not do anything that brings negative social consequences.

Hong Kong people have a kind of herd mentality. Not long ago, all eyes were on the scandals surrounding the chief executive candidates, and now the focus is on Bride Wannabes. I am sure that, in a couple of weeks, the people will move onto another controversial topic.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.