Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reality show scams: "Don't shoot me, I'm only the piano player"

During his 1883 tour of the United States, Oscar Wilde saw this saying on a notice in a Leadville, Colorado, saloon.

And who cares about Oscar Wilde, and who cares about the Wild West, and who cares about shooting the messenger.

And what’s all this got to do with the price of fish? Or a blog on media and advertising?
We’ve got this debate going on about Nach Baliye contestant Manav Gohil and his wife Shveta buying 200 BPL Mobile SIM cards which they gave to friends and urged them to send text messages in their support.

Someone figured this out, and Manav and his wife were branded cheats. In parallel, a witch hunt began for BPL Mobile, the unfortunate service provider to have been chosen by Manav as the solution to his popularity problems. How did BPL Mobile sell him so many cards? Is the show rigged?

The simple truth is, BPL Mobile had every right to sell 200, or indeed 2000 or 20000 cards to Manav, as long as the paperwork was in place.

The simple truth also is, Manav had the right to send 20 messages from each one of these cards to the short code number assigned by STAR.

And finally, the simple truth also is that STAR had the right to allow Manav to send 20 messages from each card that Manav had bought.

If we get out of this reality show nonsense, and find a parallel in the real world (I know this is complex, but you know what I mean), STAR is the equivalent of the Election Commissioner, Manav the equivalent of the candidate, and BPL Mobile (or any other mobile service provider) the equivalent of the ballot paper.

The Election Commissioner frames the rules: that the candidate can canvass for votes, and each eligible voter (in this instance, a mobile phone number) can use up to 20 ballot papers (in this instance, text messages).

So where’s the problem? None. The Election Commissioner, the candidate and the ballot papers are all within the rules and parameters framed.

If I am stupid enough to send 20 text messages to ANY number, that’s my problem. If, as Sameer Nair says (not quite, I've paraphrased and dramatised it), these 4000 votes wouldn’t make a damn of a difference, and he felt sorry for Manav, that’s Manav’s problem.

And the media has gone after BPL Mobile as the biggest culprit in this non-issue.

It’s gone back to the old days, they’re shooting the piano player.

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