Aishwarya Ramesh
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This 'game show' throws light on fake news, forwards and misinformation

A joint Dainik Bhaskar and TOI initiative puts a satirical spin on WhatsApp forwards – by placing misinformation in the middle of a game show.

We wake up every morning to loads of forwards – ranging from jokes to videos to news. Most users tend to immediately forward information that they feel can help/save the ones they love, as a precaution. When it comes to the menace that is fake news – this is the root of the problem, since all forwarded texts on WhatsApp aren't necessarily verified. Some messages are created either to entertain, or mislead, and not always to inform, or create awareness. The Times of India (TOI) and the Dainik Bhaskar Group have launched an initiative titled Kaun Banega, Kaun Banayega. It is a series of films to highlight the fake news malaise, and educate readers on the importance of reading the newspaper.

Says Sivakumar Sundaram, president – revenue, BCCL, says, “Fake news is a modern-day malaise brought on by social media. It ranges from the silly to grave ‘forwards’ having repercussions that affect the social, economic and cultural fabric of nations. As gatekeepers of the truth and as a leading newspaper company, The Times of India takes on the responsibility of educating people on the need to follow real news, and not forwards. This is being done in an engaging and humorous manner through a series of films titled Kaun Banega, Kaun Banayega. We are happy to partner with the Dainik Bhaskar Group to jointly drive this initiative.”

Newspapers have historically been considered as the most credible source of news. Multiple studies have revealed that consumers consider what appears in print to be the truth. Even in today’s digital age, there are people who wait for the newspaper every morning to verify the news they get on forwards. This is because newspapers follow a stringent process of verifying news and sources before getting printed. Journalists work endlessly to delivery authentic news to the best of their ability.

Says Girish Agarwal, promoter-director, Dainik Bhaskar Group, "Sharing a common responsibility, two of the largest media houses in the country have decided to come together to spread awareness on the menace of fake news. We will continue to work together on this issue and others of citizen and national importance.”

In a press release, Axon Alex, managing partner, Jack in the Box Worldwide, said, “Fake news, perpetuated through forwards, is more dangerous than ever before today. While the problem is being talked about aplenty in a serious tone, we deliberately took another approach to drive the relevance and importance of the printed newspaper in delivering truth. We wanted to shine the spotlight on regular people using the quiz show format where such forwards are the last thing you should rely on. Those who do, look very silly to both the host Cyrus Broacha, and the viewer. The question at the end of every film, 'Where do you get your news from?' is for the viewer to introspect on. Their answer decides if they are just as silly, or well informed."

Axon Alex
Axon Alex

Alex explained that the brief from the client was essentially about the importance of print. "The overarching objective was to establish the credibility of print as a medium – and why it's still trusted, despite us living in the digital age. The printed word is all the more credible because it has the backing of journalists and editors, and we wanted to establish that," he says. "We live in a time where fake news is rampant and spreads misinformation quickly. Earlier, you would’ve been able to look at a forward and differentiate if it was fake or not. That may not be the case anymore," adds Alex.

He also mentioned that when it came to this campaign, the agency didn’t want to take a very serious tone. "There’s been some campaigns around fake news and they tended to take a very preachy tone. That’s something we consciously wanted to stay away from. We intentionally used actors who look like regular people as contestants. We didn’t want to create a caricature of someone who sends WhatsApp forwards," he says.

Alex mentioned that when it comes to WhatsApp as a medium – messaging happens in an isolated environment on the platform, making it hard to differentiate between fake news and the truth. "We used the game show as a format because that’s the last place where someone would expect to rely on fake news. The intention was to have a satirical take on fake news and use the game show format to bring it forward," he says.

Alex admitted that Broacha was chosen as he has a history in the satire genre. “First with MTV ‘Bakra’ – a prank show, and then with CNBC’s ‘The Week That Wasn’t’ – he fit the bill for us. Choosing him to play the host was a mutual decision our client and the agency arrived at because he wasn’t overtly comedic, and struck just the right balance. We also used popular forwards, like exploding cars in summer, and NASA's picture of India on Diwali,” he signs off.

Watch all the videos in the series here.