Reality TV in Asia

Indonesia, Malaysia & Taiwan.

Reality Show In Malaysia

The privatization policy that was introduced in 1983 by the Mahathir administration opened up the flood gates for the establishment of TV stations run on a commercial basis as well as for Malaysian media practitioners to produced more local programmes. However, most of the locally produced programmes tend to be mere copies of the western genres, which in this context, it is referring to The Biggest Loser Asia. The popularization of these genres is also an indicative of the process of the globalization that has taken place. Since 2000, Malaysian television industry has witnessed the mushrooming of a ‘new’ television genre called reality TV. The ‘new’genre was popularized by the introduction of reality TV game shows, namely Survivor and Amazing Race, which received favorable response from the Malaysian audiences. Subsequently, Malaysian’s first version of reality game show, Explorace was introduced onTV3. Again, Explorace is also an adaptation of the western reality show called, Amazing Race. Explorace duplicate the concept of the show and changed its title to create a sense of belonging to the local audience. Then, The phenomenon of reality show spreads rapidly in the later years. Satellite TV station Astro, on its part, has redefined and introduced a version of musical type reality TV, Akademi Fantasia which become a huge craze in Malaysia. Akademi Fantasia is also a spin offs of a French reality television show where the format has been adopted and tweaked so it serves appropriate theme and concept to local audience. Since then, more and more so-called reality TV shows within the musical programmes have inundated almost every local television channel.

The Biggest Loser Asia is not a new comer in the world of rapidly growing reality shows in Malaysia television. However, many speculations have been raised from this show as mentioned above in regards to the code of ethics, specifically, dress code. This part of the report will further study on the format of reality television show itself and how it has been an audience cup of tea since it is introduced to the local market. Although reality television shows have created new dreams and hopes for television producers, advertising agents, aspiring contestants and devoted viewers in Malaysia, the Government is not too pleased with some of these programs. The deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia was reported to have complained that the shows “borrowed extensively from Western culture” and expressed fear that “these shows could have a negative impact on viewers because some of the action wandered from the norms of local culture” (The Star, 2005a). Subsequently, the Deputy Minister of the Energy, Water and Communications Ministry announced that the Ministry would decide on the kind of reality television shows that would suit the Malaysian society better and reflect Asian values (The Star, 2005b).

The findings indicate that respondents watched 3.00 hours of television on an average day, with a standard deviation of 1.60 hours. Both males and females spent approximately equal time watching television. The types of programs, which the respondents watched most often, were: dramas (32.3%), news (21.8%), movies (15.0%), reality television (11.0%) and comedies (8.4%). Documentaries, soap operas, talk shows and other programs were less popular. (Moy and Garma, 77)

From the statistics, it has been revealed that reality show is a popular television genre coming third after dramas,news and movies. This discovery is not a shocking statement especially to the local Asian audience. More than half of the percentage of drama as a popular genre watched on local television presumable derived from reality television. The observable fact shows that reality show and drama works hand in hand in gaining their audience. The Biggest Loser Asia, as many other reality show did not fail to incorporate drama into their format and content. From an online website that aimed to promote healthy lifestyle and fitness training,, the editor of this website has posted his opinions on the newly adapted reality show. Noel Chelliah on January 14, 2010, wrote a short review on The Biggest Loser Asia, titled, The Biggest Loser Asia – Asia’s Biggest Disappointment to the Fitness Industry. From the website, he mentioned; “I’m sure many of you will agree with me that the inaugural Biggest Loser Asia is just too full of drama, with hardly any lessons to be learnt.”. To support his opinion on this matter, he compares the reality show to the western version. But in the Asian version, all I see are injuries, pain, a lack of emphasis on what the contestants are doing to actually lose that weight, and a strong focus on all the petty issues and drama that goes on. Oh, and did I mention MORE injuries? What happened to safety? What happened to health screening/risk stratification? Watching the episodes at home, I cringe when I see some of the exercises that these contestants are made to do.” . What Chelliah comments on the show explain a much-needed information about the local audience. As it is practically known, a show must be altered and few changes must be made to suit to target audience. Hence, here is where it is reasonably observed that The Biggest Loser Asia has by far and large, altered the show. It is analyzed that the local audience favor reality show after movies and the most popular genre is drama. Hence, The Biggest Loser Asia has been part of this trend incorporating drama into their reality show format. This report will also include snippets of the show where emotional outburst and unscripted dispute has been filmed and screened on television for viewers. Observationally speaking, The Biggest Loser Asia has differ itself from the original version with its feature and content. Its defend is evidently to suit the local market and this method is not necessarily incorrect or assumed mistreating the format but merely to cater to the need and desire of Asian viewers. But, as a reality show that focuses on serious social and health issue, obesity, it is expected from the show to be professional and allocate significant attention on changing lives of the contestants and not exploiting their feelings and using it as an attraction. Therefore, it is obviously a mixed genre in today’s reality show, The Biggest Loser Asia. It has its own defense in the decision of incorporating more of drama compared to the western version.

Here is a table obtained from Moy and Garma (page 79) regarding why people watch reality television:

Table 1. Summary of Factor Analysis Results on Motivation for Watching Reality Television

Factor Initial Eigenvalue   Main Item (with factor loading in parenthesis)
Suspense 7.546 I like seeing real people face challenging situations (0.707)
I enjoy guessing who will win (0.676)
I like when something unexpected occurs on reality television
shows (0.538)
I enjoy trying to guess what will happen on reality shows (0.473)
I like watching reality television because it is shocking (0.434)
Identity and
2.360 Watching reality television makes me feel smart (0.644)Watching reality television makes me feel better about myself(0.612)

I find myself talking to people more frequently because of reality
television (0.563)
I like watching reality television because I can relate to the
participants (0.530)

Engaging/Entertaining  1.486 When I watch reality television shows, I get so involved I don’t
want to change the channel (0.676)
I like being able to talk about reality television shows with people
I know (0.629)
I enjoy watching reality television shows (0.575)
I hate it when I miss an episode of a popular reality show and
everyone is talking about it (0.393)
of Contestants
1.353 I enjoy watching reality television because of the
romance/relationships among contestants (0.737)
I enjoy watching reality television because of the physically
attractive contestants (0.583)
I watch reality television to follow my favorite contestant on theshow (0.556)I like watching reality television because of the exotic locations


Sensation-seeking  1.188 I like watching fights among contestants (0.539)
I like watching people on reality television shows when
contestants forget they are on camera (0.451)
I enjoy watching how people behave on reality television because
they have low morals and values (0.324)

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