WITH the invasion of foreign reality TV shows in recent years, local media networks have been working non-stop in producing their own reality programs or franchising them from international production companies.

“Franchised reality TV shows infiltrate local media for good money; local networks buy these for the same reason; and Filipinos watch these for good entertainment,” said Joyce Arriola, head of UST’s Department of Media Studies.

Media giant ABS-CBN has several franchises out of Netherlands-based Endemol Productions such as Pinoy Big Brother, Pinoy Dream Academy, 1 vs. 100 and Kapamilya: Deal or No Deal. But its top-rated syndicated game show, Wheel of Fortune, hails from the United States, and The Singing Bee, the network’s newest reality show to date, is from UK’s Zeal Entertainment.

Other networks have likewise jumped into the licensing frenzy and tried to win over local fan base established by the international shows. ABC5 came up with Philippine Idol, the local version of the wildly popular American Idol. Similarly, RPN9 aired the Philippines’ Next Top Model, based on the top-rated series America’s Next Top Model, while ETC Entertainment Central will soon be producing episodes of Project Runway Philippines, the Philippine version of a US-based reality search for promising fashion designers.

GMA7 had initially refused to join the franchising frenzy, especially after the initial success of its Starstruck talent search series (2003-2007).

In the article “No to program clones—GMA7” by Nini Valera (posted June 14, 2006 on Inquirer.net), GMA7 senior vice-president for entertainment TV Wilma Galvante had said that the network “doesn’t need to buy [a foreign franchise and] to get other people’s ideas.”

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But lately, the network has switched gears drastically. GMA7 is now host to programs produced by London-based Fremantle Media such as Celebrity Duets, which pits celebrities with professional singers in a weekly elimination competition. It is also showing Pinoy Idol after grabbing the American Idol franchise from ABC5.

US-based Mark Burnett Productions has also licensed GMA7 to produce the local version of programs such as the game show, Kakasa Ka Ba Sa Grade 5? (formatted after the show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?), and the upcoming Survivor Philippines, based on the Survivor series believed to have sparked the reality-television revolution in the US.

Dearth of creativity?

Despite the saturation of our television industry with foreign reality shows, the Philippines has proven it can come up with shows that are just as creative and competitive as their foreign counterparts.

ABS-CBN has created hit programs such as Simpleng Hiling and Willingly Yours, which granted the wishes of ordinary people. The network also launched an assortment of talent searches such as Little Big Star, U Can Dance, and Star Circle Quest. The three-time winner of the Star Awards for “Best TV Game Show,” Pilipinas, Game KNB?, was also crafted in local shores.

Its rival network GMA7, on the other hand, produced Wish Ko Lang, a public-service program fulfilling the dreams of the less-fortunate. Its talent searches included Pinoy Pop Superstar and Starstruck. And who could forget Extra Challenge, the trail-blazing game show which roused the local viewers’ interest and love for reality programs?

“Local networks are capable of producing quality shows if they pay more priority to professionalization of writers, talents and artists,” said Arriola.

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But television networks have invested more on franchises rather than on their own shows, which hamper creativity as a result since franchises come in a package, leaving local producers with limited tasks in developing these shows.

For some persnickety viewers, the franchised shows debase the original. For others, franchising is a menace to the country’s cultural identity.

“If there is something grave about the phenomenon, it is the ‘homogenization’ of culture and taste,” said Arriola.

Some local viewers have yet to adjust to issues on privacy-intrusion and voyeurism— issues that this conservative nation is not very much used to.

However, the ratings have spoken. Majority of Filipinos are engrossed with franchised reality shows, mainly due to a sense of identification to the “Filipino twist” thrown into the formula.

“Franchised shows make us experience the entertainment they bring about in the local context,” said College of Architecture junior Earlwin Jerome Tee.

People are also given to participate in these shows via SMS voting or reaction.

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