Smart, mobile, and interactive television - it's not just the spirit of the times, but a trend that should be steadily followed by companies in the fight for the time and attention of the viewer. What Azerbaijani television will be like and how to help the viewer to understand the variety of channels, the number of which is increasing year by year - our R+ correspondent Narmina VALIYEVA talks with the popular showman and director-general of one of the production companies, Murad DADASOV, about this and many other things.
Murad, you can be called one of the most experienced TV persons of Azerbaijan. At one time you participated in many international training sessions and seminars. Do you think national television has a future?
- I very much hope so. I hope that our TV will change for the better. But these changes will not happen as quickly as we would like. This is a fairly lengthy process. Today, national television is going through a very difficult period in its development. To paraphrase the famous revolutionary principle "the upper class cannot and the lower class does not want to live as before", I would say that in our television there is a situation when the audience needs good and high-quality programmes and TV channels cannot meet their needs. You may ask: how do channels in other countries cope with this task? The thing is that most of them are working in a specific pattern, according to which economic relations between channels and producers of television products are regulated. A TV channel, as a broadcaster, is engaged in showing and manufacturing a range of projects. Usually a TV channel itself "does" the news and some socio-humanitarian programmes. All the other things - various entertainment and children's programmes, shows and sitcoms - fall on the shoulders of production companies, from which TV stations buy the most "delicious" products. And what is happening here? Our TV channels are not able to buy quality products from the manufacturer, which is why they are trying to do various programmes and shows on their own. In most cases, it turns out very badly. Besides that, domestic channels are all running after ratings, which is not always good. Recently I read an interview with Konstantin Ernst, in which he said that if he was running after ratings, Channel One would be showing only Petrosyan and the duo of "new Russian grannies" all day. Of course, you need to know your audience, but it is silly to bet exclusively on the so-called "rating" programmes. For example, do you have a TV set in your office?
No. It is just a distraction from work.
- It turns out that those who work all day, and they are the overwhelming majority in Baku, are not the audience of the programmes broadcast in the morning or in the afternoon?
- So, these programmes are watched by housewives and children who are not particularly well-versed in television. I think "television education" should start from them. It is necessary to cultivate a new taste in viewers, show high-quality, intelligent, informative and entertaining programmes.
What do you think makes the Azerbaijani TV market different from the European market?
- It is clear that the mentality of Azerbaijanis is different from the mentality of Western people. That's why when creating Azerbaijani programmes, that difference should be considered. In addition, we have growing technical capabilities, which certainly allows for more interesting effects and better content. Figuratively speaking, we had very tasteful content in unattractive wrapping before. If you remember the most delicious dishes were served at squalid and unsightly eateries. That's not fair. A candy with delicious fillings should have a nice wrapper. Today our state is changing this "wrapper" to a decent one. The city is changing, new buildings, new parks and art centres are being built. And that's great! The taste should be nurtured.
With the advent of cable television, Bakuvians almost stopped watching local TV stations. Why is this happening and how to change the situation?
- Yes, that's right. If before the "other" channels were watched only by 15 per cent of the local population, today the same number of viewers switch the TV to domestic channels. Others prefer foreign TV channels. Alas, the local TV stations do not realize that they are competing not only with each other but, above all, with cable TV. And this competition is not in their favour. People working in television, beginning from the programme host and ending with the cameraman or lighting technician, must understand that they need to constantly learn and grow. You cannot do anything without education! With each passing day, our country is developing and life is becoming better. We have all conditions for development. It is just that most people do not believe in themselves and do not take the initiative. They are waiting for someone form above to solve all their problems. I travel the world and see how people live in other countries. Take, for example, the US. We, who live in Azerbaijan, think that it is a very rich country - a paradise for those who want to live in grand style. But it is only on the surface. In reality, Americans work from morning to night. They work hard all day and it not so easy to find a job there. Our people will not be able to work like Americans. We are somewhat relaxed, very calm and slow. We need to change our character slightly. We have to be more active, learn and grow. And the main problem of our reality is the shortage of staff. There is really a shortage of true professionals in all fields. How are we to solve this issue? It is necessary to improve education and promote the fact that learning today is not only fashionable, but also vital. I do not understand people who want to get on the screen at all costs. It does not matter whether they have anything to say, whether they can behave in front of the camera and whether they have enough professionalism to do so. Everyone wants to be famous. Ambition is a good thing, but you also need to understand that you have to learn and develop.
It turns out that if we figure out all the nuances and change priorities, we can make our TV better? This is the formula of a successful TV channel?
- That's right. We must first correct the so-called economic relations between TV channels and producers. We must know our audience accurately and prioritize correctly. We must not forget that Azerbaijan is at war. We must clearly understand the position of our state. We do not need programmes that are contrary to the principles of the government of our country. After all, in fact, there are not too many of us, citizens of Azerbaijan - only 9 million. We must understand that only unity, spiritual development and preservation of national values can save our future. National values are not just beautiful words. These are very important things that perhaps will make it possible to reduce, for example, crime reporting. How often do we hear in recent times that the son killed his father or a brother shot his brother? Why is this happening? Because we forget about our values. We forget about what needs to be passed from generation to generation. It's certain principles of honour, decency and humanity. And TV should play the role of a teacher in this process. After all, we all watch the "box" every day. Television can change the mind of man, and it would be nice if it was useful. The world around us is changing. Azerbaijan is integrating into Europe. Today, some of my compatriots have a mess in their heads - Eastern-European mix. These people simply cannot determine who they are? Trying to be like Europeans, they lose their genetic memory. With such people you need to be very careful. It is necessary to explain to them that you can be modern and trendy without losing your national identity. Otherwise, one day we may wake up in a different country with different values.
The magic power of television is...
- ... That television is able to change people's minds and can make people better. And, of course, it can teach. Children watch TV more often than adults. In our family, we mainly speak the Azerbaijani language. When my sons were very young, they didn't know Russian. They learned the Russian language thanks to cartoons and children's programmes in Russian. So television can not only give new information, but also educate.
And what doesn't suit you personally in our television?
- A lot. On our television there a lot of music programmes, in which stars sing, show themselves and even settle scores. We are so carried away with "shop window" programmes that we even seem to have forgotten that Azerbaijan is at war. Look, we don't have any solid military song! There is not one song that soldiers could sing with a guitar. We do not have social and patriotic advertising. Where have you seen billboards saying that military service is cool? We don't even have the so-called "enemy image" in social advertising. I'm in favour of patriotism. People need to understand that any time they have to be ready to defend their country from the enemy. And we must not forget about it. Why do we have no movies or documentaries about our army and real stories about real soldiers, about how young guys are seen off to the army, soldiers' everyday lives and girls waiting for their boyfriends from the army? Why doesn't our television promote the idea that serving in the army is prestigious and masculine? Or, for example, today in our country the image of the Azerbaijani police is greatly diminished. And this is wrong. We need to establish a new image for the Baku police and change society's opinion about people in uniform. It's necessary to show in programmes and serials what law enforcement officials should be like. Then, the police themselves will catch up with this ideal.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, each of the former Soviet republics became independent and went its own way. Why do you think in the same Ukraine or Russia, television is much more progressive than ours?
- Again, I repeat. The whole thing is about big investments in television projects. In Ukraine and Russia, there are many TV channels and enough people who do their job professionally. Even a small country like Qatar managed to create such an international TV station as Al-Jazeera. It's a powerful media empire that the whole world knows. In Azerbaijan, there are all opportunities to create something similar, but, alas, we lack local staff. You know our society is like a teenager who is no longer a child but not yet an adult. Sometimes he's cocky and obnoxious, and sometimes falls into childhood. At times it's necessary to be tough enough with him to make him understand, but sometimes it's necessary to stroke his head and praise him. Our people, like this teenager, are at this stage of their life, when his future depends on what he learns and what values he absorbs. Most of us do not know how to live for themselves. We live for someone. Maybe that's why smiling people are rarely seen on the streets? Everybody looks sullen and gloomy, and "everyone is solving serious problems". Everybody wants to drive expensive cars, although they don't have money to buy them. For such people, the image is everything! They constantly put on a show and evaluate people by their brand items or cars. I remember, when we were doing the Car Show, various celebrities took part in the programme. Some of them were already stars, and others had just made themselves known. In the first few programmes, experienced stars were in the lead, but in the last ones people who "engaged" viewers not with their looks or image, but with their intelligence and ability to behave in front of the camera all of a sudden came to the fore. This show is a good example of how roles are distributed in life. And yet, don't envy other people's success. Each of us has his own way. And each of us earns his own money. God rewards everyone for their work. There's no such person who works all day, but doesn't get a reward for it. If this happens, it means that the person is doing careless work and is not pushing himself to the limit. Of course, there are also total losers who have no luck, but there are very few of them. I'm sure even they have a chance to change something in their lives. I have my own formula for success. I noticed that I achieve success when I do something just for myself, not to spite someone, when I don't try to prove anything. Envy kills and destroys our soul.
What programmes do you watch in your spare time?
- First of all, I watch the news. Because I have to be aware of what is happening both in Azerbaijan and in the world. My youngest son, two-year-old Ziya, loves programmes about animals. We sit together and watch. Before, I had no patience to watch such programmes. Now I get carried away - incredible shooting techniques! These programmes are shot like full-length feature films, but the lead roles are played by wild animals. Just imagine how much effort and patience it takes to create such programmes! The filming crew sometimes lives in the jungle or savannah for months! They're real professionals! Or take the programmes about space or science. People that make such programmes are real aces of this business! By the way, I'm sure that in the future, national TV will aim to increase the number of specialized channels. That is to say sports, music, serials, news and so on will be aired on separate channels round the clock. This process has already begun - there are TV channels like Culture and Sport. I believe that we need, above all, to start developing children's and teenagers' programmes, because, as I noted earlier, viewers need be re-educated from a very young age. If we start making quality children's and teenagers' progr-ammes now, after five years we will get a healthy audience with good taste.