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Stardom, consumerism, and new media

John Ellis and C Gledhill define a star as a performer in a particular medium whose figure enters into subsidiary forms of circulation and then feeds back into future performances. Richard Dyer argues that the star image has four components

  • What the industry puts out.
  • What the media say
  • What the star says and does
  • What the audience or spectator selects

Stars are clearly identified, commodified, and marketed individuals who can be understood beyond the symbolic. In fact, within industrial contexts, they can be useful commodities that serve various industrial ends.

In the example below, Rediff.com has created an information “gateway” or “destination” for Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire franchise) and Shah Rukh Khan. The gateway aggregates pictures, reports and features, community participation, as well as reports/features about the previous editions of the show featuring Amitabh Bachchan. The coverage is portrayed as a news phenomenon, hiding its industrial construct. Rediff.com visitors are treated to a “wholesome” coverage of the phenomenon as it seemingly unfolds as news in the real world. Readers are encouraged to be active participants in the news phenomenon and have their say, and they respond enthusiastically.

Four message boards encourage the following discussion threads:

  • AB or SRK: Who rules the hotseat? (805 messages)
  • Send your KBC review (707 messages)
  • Share your KBC experiences! (58 messages)
  • Can SRK recreate AB’s magic? (1095 messages)

The number of messages on each board indicates the success of the Rediff.com strategy. Clearly, Rediff.com has little to add by way of journalistic analysis, instead playing the role of relaying “news” — created artificially by the show producers — and facilitating community interaction around it.

The coverage also ensures a continued extension of the life of the star image through multimedia and intertextual materials such as film reviews, interviews, fan magazines and gossip publications that depict the actors life off screen. The Rediff.com interviews of the star not only reinforce the star image, informed by the show, but also reveal something about the “real” person behind the mediated image. This dual coverage fuels the economic needs of the media industries – represented here by the show producers and rediff.com — as well as the star. The news is consumeristic in nature and feeds an appetite for more information about the show. Given that there is little journalistic intervention by way of media analysis, the television company effectively controls coverage as long as they can create shows that draw on “larger than life” figures such as SRK. This automatically ensures public support, and media outlets merely supply the demand.

Rediff.com occupies that fluid space of new media which can serve many interests with ease. Perhaps that is an indication of the future of news.

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