The major TV networks having their own special Ramzan transmissions has become the norm now. During this entire month of Ramzan, the channels offer hours long transmissions with different celebrities hosting them. The usual programming schedule is rescheduled for the sake of these transmissions. On a cursory glance, it looks good but then when we see these Ramzan special programs carefully, and the jarring reality of the dichotomy between these Ramzan exclusive content becomes apparent.
The dichotomy between the before and after Iftar content
Take the television remote and flip through the general entertainment channels at any time during the day before Iftar. Chances are there would be more shows with modestly dressed celebrities sitting alongside various religious scholars appearing on screen than the re-runs of any drama. The mood of the shows would be sober with one channel asking for donations for one noble cause or another while on some other channel there would be a naat recitation competition going on.
The scholars belonging to different schools of thoughts would be discussing religious issues. The host would be questioning them on how to best utilize the holy month and all its blessings. There would be celebrities sitting as guests, talking about their experiences with Ramzan and sharing anecdotes related to it. In short, the programs would be informative and most importantly conducted in a serious manner.
Post iftar the whole mood changes. As the celebrity hosts bid farewell with the breaking of the fast, the channels go back to their regular programming schedule. Some channels continue with their pre-Ramzan schedule while some air Ramzan special programs like a mini-series or a game show. It is during these programs that you see a drastic change in the whole atmosphere.
The case of Ramzan special dramas and game-shows
The Ramzan special dramas, which mostly have humor as their main genre, don’t have a complex plot. They aim to be for light viewing with more focus on making the audience laugh than involving them in any mind-boggling conspiracies. They do so by introducing many eccentric characters and having them do even more eccentric things, which often leads to showing problematic scenarios and presenting them as humor. Since the aim is to make the audience laugh, any concern about the underlying problems of the humor is always brushed aside as irrelevant.
A lot has been written and said about the game-shows already. The antics of the host and what the audience is made to do in order to win gifts like a TV or a bike is something every Pakistani has gotten used to now. The point here is that just a couple of hours after Iftar, all the soberness that this holy month entails is completely forsaken in the name of entertainment.
This very obvious contradiction in the day and night schedule of entertainment channels is baffling. The two very different kinds of Ramzan special programs completely cancel out the effects of each other once they are juxtaposed. Why preach about the dignity of Ramzan when post iftar all dignity is thrown out of the window to dance on the top of a car? Likewise, why show dramas whose entire humor relies on a wife being suspicious of her husband’s actions every day, or using stereotypical characters just to keep the gags running, when around sehr time the channel would once again talk about using this month to collect blessings and changing your behavior for the better.
A final word
While there can be defense about both the kind of programming as having their own set of benefits and target audience, the fact remains that, overall, it just sends a very confusing message. Television has a lot of influence and for a long time, it has been relegated to just a money-making industry.
I am not saying that there should be a complete overhaul in the programming style of all the channels during Ramzan but the said channels should definitely put in some effort in having a consistent image throughout. There are ways of incorporating entertainment into education; they are not as mutually exclusive as our channels would have you believe. Doing so would only work in favor of the channel while not confusing the audience about how to really consume television content without compromising on the benefits of the month.