Ever watched any of China’s reality TV shows and questioned the legitimacy of the theatrical reactions that abound in singing competitions such as I am a Singer and The Voice of China? Your suspicions are probably right on the money.
Like the performances onstage, these tears, rapt expressions, and prayerful poses are carefully orchestrated acts performed by people known as “professional audiences”.
Hired to hype up a show, fill seats, as well as to incite a viewer’s emotions, a “professional” audience member can be paid up to 800 yuan per day (SGD$160) — in an industry and practice that is very much an open secret.
According to New Weekly, television stations set aside part of the show’s budget for “professional audiences” during the planning process. They then enlist the services of companies, set up solely for this purpose, to provide them with the amount and type of audience members that they require.
This practice, however, has had its fair share of criticism. Some feel that these reactions overshadow and are an insult to the actual performers.
According to Entertainment Preview, netizens have revealed that stations like Jiang Su Television provide only bread and yogurt to “professional audiences” for their variety shows.They have also recruited students to act, filming and directing their “reactions” first, before the actual show. The “reactions” are then spliced into footage during the editing process.
The “professional audience’ industry is robust, estimated to be over 180 million yuan in market size.
Well received or not, it is definitely here to stay.