Sun, 22 Oct 2000

Competition heats up celebrity news programs

By Emmy F. Hastuti

JAKARTA (JP): Names make news is a classic theory in the news industry which has perhaps spurred the infotaintment producers to pack the "this and that" about local celebrities in their programs.

Gossip shows are really hot in the television industry. This has become a frenzied trend among the five local private stations, which regularly air similar shows about the latest boyfriend of this artist or the divorce of another artist, or about their new toy or their new thong.

"Personal facts on public figures either politicians or celebrities are a long lasting resource for the television industry," television observer Veven S.P. Wardhana said.

He said there is an unhealthy competition among the TV stations, who present similar programs and fail to air more resourceful or exclusive shows.

"It is the way our television industry works, using 'me-too- product' claims. If a show is regarded as successful, then other stations will present similar programs, not something different but only other variants," he said.

The show time might be different -- some however, are aired at the same time -- but the content is the same, Veven added.

He agreed that gossip shows on television are fun to watch as they are light and entertaining. Unfortunately, they are not healthy.

"It's refreshing to watch such programs but it is really unhealthy. Why should we care whether actress Dessy (Ratnasari) is going steady or not with guitarist Dewa Bujana? It's not our problem, but many still want to follow her story on the screen," he said.

Gossip programs have attracted more and more viewers from segmented audience like housewives or housemaids who are believed to spend more time in front of televisions than men.

A cab driver admitted that now he prefers to watch those gossip shows on televisions rather than news programs or political talk shows.

"The last time I watched a political debate was before the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly. After the event I've became bored following the issues," he said.

When he gets a chance, he stops at the taxi pool and joins dozens of other cab drivers who relax for a while before hitting the streets looking for passengers.

"In the afternoon, we drop by the pool. My friends also love the gossip shows. We'd rather watch them than news programs," he said, and smoothly talked about the hot gossip about dangdut singer Evi Tamala who was about to go back to her husband.

He admitted to having no preference for television stations. Sometimes he also watches news program.

"As long as the television station does not broadcast student demonstrations, (President) Gus Dur's overseas trip, Ambon or earthquakes, I'll watch if I have time," he said.

Three years ago, following the downfall of Soeharto, the news, which used to be under tight government control, started to flow freely. Every station then ran not only their news program but also political talk shows.

Some viewers, however, seem to have tired of such news and preferred to watch something lighter. This phenomenon soon rang a bell and prompted the TV stations to present gossip programs.

Check out the available channels and find the plethora of similar programs, such as Indosiar's Kisah Seputar Selebritis (KISS, Celebs' Stories, Tuesday, Friday, 4 p.m., Saturday, 9:30 a.m.), RCTI's C&R (Check and Recheck, Tuesday and Friday, 4 p.m.), TPI's GoShow (Gossip Show, Sunday, 9 a.m.) and Sisi Selebritis (Celebs' Side, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.), ANteve's Berita Selebritis (Betis, News on Celebs, Wednesday, 12:30 p.m.), Celeb on TV (Monday, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, 12:30 p.m., and Panorama (Saturday, 5:30 p.m., SCTV's Halo Selebritis (Hallo Celebs, Monday, Thursday 11 a.m.), Dunia Bintang (Star World, Tuesday, 11 a.m.).


Tough competition in gossip shows has challenged the producers to display their strength, to make audiences tune-in to their program and return for the same show and next time.

Inserting newly launched video clips, inviting a guest star and providing a quiz for the audience are among efforts to hook the viewers.

KISS' executive producer Siti Roozika said that the competition was felt strongly this year, when other private televisions started to run similar infotainment programs on celebrity news.

"Actually we are first among television stations in running such programs, dating back to 1996 when KISS was still part of a TV show called Jelita (Jendela Informasi Wanita), under the segment named SPOT (Seputar Orang Top)," she said.

The station decided to air KISS, one of the most-seen programs, three times a week after they realized that other televisions were airing similar gossip shows.

"Our host, comedian Eko Patrio, is one of the strong points. He makes KISS as entertaining as possible with his naughty-style, digging out others artists' stories," Siti said.

C&R is produced by PT Bintang Advis Multimedia. The program's executive director, Aprilla J. Munaf, said the show was first intended to be a forum for the celebrities to defend themselves from tabloids which often print stories about them without checking the accuracy.

"There are many tabloids running gossips or stories without checking with the artists first and we provide this program for them to talk and clarify the gossip," Aprilla said.

She admitted that competition was tough but claimed her program had been recognized as "best" infotainment on television.

"We balance the content of the programs, 50 percent is entertainment and 50 percent is news or actual information on famous artists, of course we give more in-depth coverage on certain gossip or news on the artists," she said, adding that the program was done mostly by a journalism-based crew.

"The news touch is thick here compared to infotainment programs run by other stations," Aprilla boasted.

Citing the report on the recent arrest of comedians for possessing drugs, she said that the program presented a thorough coverage. Not only did they talk to the artists, but they also reported the on social phenomenon of serious shabu-shabu (crystal methamphetamine) popularity.

TPI's public relations officer Theresia Ellasari said her station decided to broadcast the gossip shows after learning about the high public demand for more infotainment programs.

TPI broadcasts not only one gossip show, but five weekly.

"Our presenters are top celebrities like Tamara Geraldine and Jodi (both for the GoShow). They attract the audience with their style of presenting our news on celebrities," she said.

The industry will never face any shortage of resources as now they are starting to catch not only artists, but also athletes, and even political elites on their shows.

And people who are bored with the continuing political and economical situation can turn on the television and gossip about other people's luck and bad luck - until they become saturated.