Agroundbreaking reality TV show, with an educational message, will hit Cambodia's
airwaves at 1:30pm on January 28 on TV5. Youth Leadership Challenge (Yuvakchun Chhnoeum)
is helping to spearhead the fledgling reality TV business in Cambodia.
"[The popular reality TV show] Coffee Shop was business oriented, while our
program is socially, educationally and leadership oriented," said Chea Samnang,
karaoke and film star and one of the three judges of the show. "It has correct
motives and I believe in it - that's why I volunteered. I get no salary."
At the end of the eight-week series, the one surviving contestant will be selected
to go to the United States for leadership training for several weeks, said another
judge, Mak Sarath, program coordinator for the Youth Council of Cambodia, who is
producing the show with funding from the International Republican Institute (IRI).
"We want to motivate young people to become more involved in social work, and
to build new leadership; we hope [the contestants] will become more active and gain
social responsibility," Sarath said.
The show follows typically cutthroat reality show format and will wean out two contestants
each week. Each episode, the two teams choose their three weakest members themselves.
The adjudicators will say "Go home" to two of the three from the week's
losing team, reminiscent of the now famous catch phrase "You're fired"
from Donald Trump's reality game show The Apprentice.
"But 'You're fired' is too strong to say in the Khmer culture," Sarath
The 16 contestants have been chosen from Phnom Penh universities and NGOs. "Each
episode features a different activity concerning leadership, organizing events, social
activities, sports, advocacy and IT," Sarath said.
"The show is amazing," said Lazar Antonic, resident program officer of
the IRI. "The objective is to make Cambodians more socially responsible, and
an effective way to reach people is through entertainment."
Antonic said that although the IRI is using funds provided by USAID, they hope eventually
to make the program self-sustainable, and so far have gained the sponsorship of the
Cambodian company CamEd.
"TV5 is being very helpful by giving us airtime free," he said. "It's
not only the first educational-type reality TV show in Cambodia, but, as far as I
know, in the whole world."
The exact events for each episode are kept secret, as the teams only learn of the
topics the day before. The first episode, which has already been filmed, had the
teams fundraising out in the community. The amounts raised will be announced on the
first show on Sunday and the proceeds will go to the Krousar Thmey orphanage.
"The program gives me a great opportunity to work in a team, to learn how to
raise funds and persuade people to give money, " said contestant Heng Socheata,
21, an accountancy student at the National University of Management. "Because
we were helping homeless children without good health care, and because children
are our future, people gave us money. When we have a clear objective we will succeed,
" said Socheata.
"There are a lot of problems in Cambodia, and the first is corruption,"
said contestant Eng Huyleng, 19, a law student at the Royal University of Law and
Economics. "We need to clear these problems up. This program is giving me a
lot of experience, and now I feel good about helping poor people and orphans."
Another 12 episodes of the program are scheduled to start in April.