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The end of our dignity and heritage?

WITH Big Brother on TV Markíza and its derivate VyVolení on TV JOJ, the phenomenon of the reality show in Slovakia has intensified. To see what impact such programmes may have on Slovak viewers - their behaviour and their attitudes to cultural heritage - The Slovak Spectator talked to sociologist Zuzana Kusá.

WITH Big Brother on TV Markíza and its derivate VyVolení on TV JOJ, the phenomenon of the reality show in Slovakia has intensified. To see what impact such programmes may have on Slovak viewers - their behaviour and their attitudes to cultural heritage - The Slovak Spectator talked to sociologist Zuzana Kusá.


The Slovak Spectator (TSS): How do you see the reality show phenomenon developing on Slovak TV?

Zuzana Kusá (ZK): We've had our first taste of reality shows and the TV companies are trying to convert the interest into cash, and bring other well-tried products of this kind to the market. Advertising for new reality shows is all around us. Its loudness and pomposity startle a bit, but luckily the experience of other countries points to over-saturation and slackening in viewer interest. There's no need for cultural pessimism and fear of irreversible changes, that as a consequence of these programmes we will tear up our cultural heritage.

On the other hand, we may want to consider limiting the abuse of human dignity, which can be lost. What was scandalous half a year ago seems an innocent form of humour today. It's paradoxical that what we are willing to do to gain prestige and power in front of the TV cameras is growing at a time when scientific research is bounded by a strict code of ethics and ever-greater protection of human dignity and privacy.


TSS: How well is Slovakia adjusting to the trend towards reality TV?

ZK: We are subject to a certain delay, which means commercial television has more time to research and carry out more successful marketing. They can approach the viewer more artfully.

The Slovak viewer has proved to be as interested in voyeurism as viewers in other countries. Maybe because of the [relatively low] number of TV channels and [relatively many] reality shows offered, the Slovak viewer is more boxed in and has fewer chances to escape.


TSS: When will the Slovak viewer become fed up with the reality show, and in what way?

ZK: Discussions on the limits of our tolerance and on what art means in a world where profit is the main criteria for survival, are a positive outcome of the presence of reality shows. Such discussions are not loud, but the ability to reflect and react has not been completely lost.

If similar programmes are run on all TV stations, there is a chance that the saturation point will come sooner. The question is, whether people would still be able to know what they are missing in television and what they would like to see instead of reality shows.


TSS: Programmes of the Big Brother type make celebrities out of ordinary people. Do these people have any chance of influencing society?

ZK: The fame that the reality show participants receive may be intense but very short-lived. However, even though the individual voices will be heard only briefly, together they add to the noisiness of society, a kind of amusing jabber, which distracts our attention from the things we should we be doing for ourselves and future generations.

The media is very dangerous. Not that they mislead but they dismiss the search for the truth as a boring aside, relegate it to the third or fourth track. The other tracks obviously just offer fun.

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