Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Quiz Show : Re-visited

KBC seems to be in the hot seat. The Delhi High Court has directed the MRTPC (Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission) to probe into the way the Quiz show is conducted. It was a story that has been in the making for long. People and more importantly the media, feel that KBC for celebrities is easier than it is for the normal participants. The impression gathered critical mass as the celebrities started winning hefty cash prizes. As murmurs grew into noise, we had a Mr. Anuj Kumar Bharti filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with the Delhi high court. Apparently, general junta seems to be surprised at this!

This is a repeat of the Federal Communications Commission Vs American broadcasting Company Inc. case that played itself out in the United States in 1950s. The 1994 movie Quiz Show captured the drama on celluloid. The show in question was Twenty One. The participant had to answer more questions than a competitor to get onto a total score of 21 before the competitor to win the big cash prize. This continued week-on-week till a 'Challenger' got to the magical number of 21 before the original participant.

The final judgment in the case under discussion was in the favour of the defendant (ABC et al). The argument being that the show was an entertainment show. It was not supposed to be an educational program. The defendant’s lawyers went on to compare the show to a ‘give-away’ on TV – only to add a qualifier that it was a slightly involved kind of a ‘give-away’ with a huge cash sum involved (Click on that link above if you need to know all the details). All the participants in the US TV show, Tewnty One, signed an agreement with the firm that made them a willing party to the photo-op.

The argument might hold true in the Indian Case as well. Though, a big difference being that Airtel made a lot of money from SMS and Phone Calls to the KBC dedicated lines. I am guessing that Star and Mr. Basu’s firm Synergy will admit to rigging the show and claim that there is nothing wrong with it. I happen to agree to this as well. After all, it is not more than a comic act at best. Also, it might be compared to a lottery. However, in India, a company needs a license to run a lottery. Plus, many states have made lotteries illegal. So the show might be on the wrong side of the law not because of the MRTPC regulations but for running an illegitimate lottery! May be some smart lawyer would compare it to a lucky draw or give-away again (taking a cue from the US case) with a large cash prize attached to it! And may be the Star TV Network and Synergy will get away with it.

Of course, the news channels will have many days worth of breaking-news from this tamasha. As far as the Indian public is concerned, we will do the usual collective loss of memory and continue to enjoy the shows and fancy the prize monies.

PS: On a totally un-related note (which incidentally is my most favorite of notes), don’t you think that 1994 was one of the best years of Hollywood with films like Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption, Léon and The Lion King! This list remains small as I am not including the popular hit movies like The Mask, Four Wedding and a Funeral etc. in this list.

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