TV shows are finding out that Indian audiences are now more attuned than ever to recognizing far-left propaganda, and are voting with their feet.
Kaun Banega Crorepati’s ratings have fallen 50% this year after “Boycott KBC” had trended on Twitter through the season. Livemint reported that Television Rating Points (TRPs) of KBC stood at 1.5 this year, as against 2.5-3 a year ago. Television executives claimed that Kaun Banega Crorepati had suffered because it had coincided with the IPL this year, and the lack of studio audiences meant that viewers weren’t as interested as before.
But another factor that TV executives perhaps failed to account for was the simmering anger against the show for peddling what many thought was far-left propaganda. A clip from the show from 2018 had gone viral earlier this year, in which a question had required the contestant to recognize the voice of a “student youth leader.” The options for the youth leader were Umar Khalid, Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mewani and Hardik Patel, all of whom happened to be far-left extremists. Umar Khalid and Kanhaiya Kumar had even been booked for sedition against the India state.
Some other users had wondered why KBC carried questions on Pakistan, which was responsible for promoting terror attacks in Kashmir. “Why is KBC so obsessed with enemies of our country?? Earlier question was pertaining to Tukde Tukde Gang and today about Pakistan Prime Minister. Are they for real??” a user had wondered after a question around the political party that Imran Khan belonged to.
Yet another question had been around Javed Akhtar’s Richard Dawkins award. Javed Akhtar has been regularly criticized for spreading fake news, covertly promoting Islamists, and defending Tahir Hussain’s role in the CAA violence. But the question appeared to be yet another covert attempt to give him prominence, and the the options for the answers left no doubt as to what the real purpose behind the question was: the options for the answers were Swara Bhasker, Ravish Kumar, Anurag Kashyap, and Javed Akhtar.
Matters, however, had come to a head when a question had featured Ambedkar’s burning of the Manusmriti. “Questions like these on #KBC are DEPLORABLE & must be avoided. #Ambedkar said so many things (Reservation, Islam etc) on which questions can be framed but why pick this #Manusmriti one?” a Twitter user had written.
Things had only escalated — FIRs had been filed against the KBC and Amitabh Bachchan for the Manusmiriti question, and BoycottKBC had regularly trended for the following few days.
Now it’s hard to say to what degree the online boycott was responsible for KBC’s plummeting ratings, but it would likely have been a major factor. Indian audiences over the past few months have been vocal about the far-left propaganda being thrust on them: just last month, Tanishq had to take down two ads and see its market cap fall Rs. 2,700 crore the day after BoycottTanishq had trended on social media. With KBC’s TRP’s ratings being halved in a season that was beset with controversy amid calls of a boycott, companies would do well to realize that their old tricks of shoving far-left propaganda down viewers’ throats isn’t quite working as intended.