— TD Fuego
That is the generic for all the programmes that are “produced” and broadcast by the MBC for our delectation. But, much of the time these so-called home productions boils down to merely broadcasting something that has been produced elsewhere, but fronted by a local presenter; and even that with all the brilliance of a used up Pinky.
Of course, there are the rare pearls like the recent Lavi Lazol, which was produced and presented by Ritvik Neerbun. But, much of what our national television churns out varies between the mediocre and the switch-me-off-quick variety. My friend Keshraj describes them as Bonto programmes. Between you and me, I have no idea what Bonto means. But, the mere sound of the word conjures up a vivid image of all that is representative of the lowest common denominator.
Bonto dans Village
For some time now, it has been screening a half-hour programme called Balade dans Village. In this, the presenter wanders aimlessly about the place, and the commentary boils down to correct sa, serieux, allez bon courage! Wherever he goes, he is forever on the look-out for a sega singer or two. And, when he finds them, boy, oh boy, all you get is one continuous programme of sega. Now, please don’t misunderstand. I quite like sega but, with its repetitive beat that can border on the boring at times and the inane shrieks of trappe-sa! and done-li maman! that punctuates it ad infinitum, I must admit my tolerance threshold has certain limits.
But, coming back to Balade, it should have left the sega for Live-N-Direk. Instead, it could and should have been used to edify us with the known and not so-well-known facts about the village being visited. Admittedly, it would have required some meticulous research, but we are not exactly short of people who can delve into the history and characters, past and present, of our villages. From personal experience of our own native villages, each one of us knows how rich their history, their legends and their folklore can be.
It seems not so long ago when my friend Sahid and I were made to feel ashamed for speaking Bhojpuri on the school bus to Port Louis. The children of the L’etat-major of the sugar estate would mock us as we naturally conversed in our maternal language. So, how wonderful to have Bhojpuri songs broadcast on national TV and radio. It cheers Bhojpuri speakers like me no end.
But do we really need 2 presenters to play just 5 songs on prime time TV, sung mostly by tone-deaf gawayas to rehashed sega tunes? Is this the best way to do justice to and promote the rich language that is Bhojpuri? What happened to discussions and debates?
There are so many subjects crying out to be discussed, like basic guidance on proper child care and parenting, family values, how to behave in public places and minding our language in the presence of ladies and older people. Social and moral issues like abortion, contraception, and the ideal number of children per family. General subjects to broaden our vista on world affairs like world population, the Euro-crisis, and the perennial tragedy of the horn of Africa. The list is almost endless.
On the rare occasion that we do have any discussion programme (in any language), it is always fronted by some insipid relic masquerading as a journalist, with guests to match. Do not expect to learn anything other than the official view; controversy has been sent on exile!
Even, or especially, as a firm non-believer, I have nothing against religion. I believe that, in a free country, everybody should be free to practice his beliefs in serenity. But, I also happen to believe religion and prayer to be a private communion between the believer and his God. Instead, what we see are ostentatious shows of strength, a kind of unhealthy competition designed to prove that “mine is better than yours.”
As if to reinforce the point, all of these are broadcast to saturation on national TV. Maybe, these religious programmes are of interest to the believer who, in any case, should be busy taking part rather than watching it on TV. As for the rest of us, we are not in the least bit interested in watching devotees performing their rituals.
If the bulk of advertisements are boring beyond human endurance, some are just downright stupid. However, the worst offenders have to be the ones that, instead of helping to inculcate good manners in our children, perversely tend to do the opposite.
There is one advertising a particular brand of instant noodles in which a 5-year old boy is made to race with 2 characters from a video game. As the child wolfs down his noodles, one can’t help wondering if the producers ever worried about the kind of table manners this would instill in young, gullible children.
Of course, there are many more examples of bad taste, but the dada Bonto ad has to be the one about HIV/AIDS. In this one, we see two African babies happily babbling away to each other over the shoulders of their mothers. They tell each other how they were born healthy, because their HIV-positive mothers had gone for the appropriate treatment the moment they had found out that they were expecting. The unequivocal message is that it is ok for HIV-positive women to give birth, provided they seek treatment. Wonderful!
What the babies could also have told us is that they might eventually become one more statistics to add to the estimated 18m AIDS orphans living in sub-Saharan Africa; and who are left to be brought up by financially stressed grandparents. They could also have added that half of these orphans are infants aged 0-9 years. They could have explained further what happens when the grandparents become too old to cope or, worse still, pass away.