TV in a Jungle of Commercialisation !
Posted on November 1st, 2010
G Wilfred Dissanayake of Ethul Kotte lamented through letters to the Editor, Daily News, recently on ‘Commercial advertising by electronic media’ who precisely spoke on behalf of millions of other TV watchers in Sri Lanka about the time eaten out of interesting programs by ever increasing television advertising. Many viewers, who are ‘teledrama addicts’, will admit how half hour teledramas are getting overridden by chomp of a 60 percent commercial breaks much to their exasperation.
‘Commercial breaks’ on television are the mouthpiece of any business organisation. These are programed, produced at a cost, and paid for, to convey a specific message to consumers at large to sell a product or a service. Television commercial advertising revenue provides a significant portion of the funding for small screen networks in a competitive marketing game for themselves. Commercial advertisements or services can also take the form of political propaganda campaigns, especially during election fever, where the public viewers are forced to watch willingly or unwillingly.
With the passage of time, Sri Lankan TV has undergone a dramatic change, especially with commercial advertising and today it stands as a mighty force to generate income for manufacturers of branded goods and television networks.
TV commercials appear between shows, interrupting all programs, intention of which is to capture the audience thereby keeping the viewers glued to their favourite shows, focusing on the task of keeping the viewing audience interested enough to sit through advertisements!
Commercial breaks are becoming longer continually. TV advertisers making children scapegoats from very young ages to appear in ‘the idiot box’ on commercials, especially to target certain audiences to be more profitable is catastrophic.
The consequence of this type of manoeuvre would be, on the one hand for marketers to financially flourish. On the other hand, parents of young children undoubtedly get tempted and blindly attracted to financial packages offered by giant advertising companies for two reasons:
(1) The additional income for the family by such ‘unexpected windfalls’ (2) For the grandeur of making their young ones ‘little stars’ and seeing them appearing on the small screen day in and out which naturally elates them, but unfortunately becoming oblivious simultaneously to the fact that such ‘young models’ are at times promoting the wrong food or drink which are injurious to millions of other children’s as well as their own health!
TV Commercials can become a nuisance when these often cut into during either at a climax of a plot in a teledrama, or for the duration of a major program, or turning point in a show which many people find exciting or entertaining to watch. Unfortunately, today the boundaries between ‘programing’ and ‘advertisements’ are being eroded to the point where the line is blurred.
In many European countries television advertisements appear in longer, but less frequent advertising breaks. European Union legislation limits the time taken by commercial breaks to 12 minutes per hour (20 percent), with a minimum segment length of 20 or 30 minutes, depending on the program content.
Malaysian television stations broadcast only around 15 minutes of television commercials per hour. All major New Zealand television channels, whether State-owned or privately owned, screen commercials with adverts on average take up 15 minutes of each hour.
There are usually two advert breaks in a half-hour program and four advert breaks in an hour-long program. Television adverts are banned on Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and also on Sunday mornings before midday. One can suggest that easily we can adopt this trend on Poya days to fall in line with closing of liquor shops and meat halls when people enjoying the holiday can relax and watch television with a peace of mind!
Another type of TV advertisement, which is spreading from channel to channel, appears on some channels as an ad overlay at the bottom of the TV screen, which blocks out some of the picture. ‘Banners’ or ‘Logo Bugs’, as they are called, are referred to as ‘Secondary Events’.
Banners have caught up in the Sri Lankan TV advertising market too and often we see ‘moving sentences’, objects, figures jumping up and down and dancing or a leather balls travelling from one end to the other end of the screen during cricket matches to interfere with viewers’ sight and distracts them even momentarily from the programs they are watching.
Apart from such distractions, viewers are forced to gaze at some horrendous commercial banners when ‘men in yellow robes’ (at the expense of venerated Buddhist monks) openly advertise on ‘Gurukam’ (charms) and voodoo with promises to engage in all kinds of villainy under the sun which is detrimental to any healthy society. In such a backdrop the authorities responsible for advertisement compliance should be active to deal with any irresponsible or harmful marketing at any time of a program.
Children who consistently spend more than four hours per day watching TV (along with all ‘convincing’ TV commercials promoting a particular food, drink, soap or a shampoo) are more likely to become obese. Children who view violent acts are prone to show aggressive behaviour, but also fear that the world is terrifying and that something bad will happen to them.
Of course television, in moderation, can be a good thing for children. Pre-school children can get help learning the alphabet on public television, grade students can learn about wildlife on nature shows and parents can keep up with current events on the evening news. No doubt about it – TV can be an excellent educator and entertainer but too much television can also be detrimental with excessive TV commercials bamboozling the naive to fall prey for such advertised products irrespective of their effectiveness.
Mass Media and Communications Minister Keheliya Rambukwella’s recent comments that: “Today TV has been drawn so deep into the jungle of commercialisation” and his proposal to bring a ban on TV commercials, teledramas and other programs that pervert the minds of the young” needs to be applauded and considered as something which is long overdue.