In an unsuspicious looking house in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district six girls and six boys are living together, monitored for hours on end by TV cameras, while competing in a weekly singing competition for the ultimate prize of $2,500.
“Cellcard Star” is Cambodia’s first real-time “reality TV” show, MYTV General Manager Glen Felgate said in an interview Wednesday.
The 12 contestants learn a new song every week, which they will perform during Sunday concerts. Audience members will be encouraged to vote for the contestant they want to keep in the house, and the contestant with the fewest votes will be asked to leave until just one remains standing.
“It’s kind of like Star Academy with a bit more talent,” Felgate said.
“We are trying to create a star, but we are also trying to teach them new things,” Felgate said, denying the program has any resemblance to the “Big Brother”- genre reality shows, which are massively popular but loathed in equal measure by audiences in the West.
“Big Brother is very scandal-driven, and I don’t think Cambodians are ready for that kind of scandal,” Felgate said.
Cellcard Star’s reality show is now being broadcast eight hours each day and is also the main show on the recently launched MYTV, a new channel launched by CTN on Jan 9.
MYTV is aimed at Cambodia’s young population and the advertisers trying to reach them, Felgate wrote in an e-mail Monday.
Along with singing, the Cellcard Star contestants are also given classes in how to write a CV, how to find a job and other professional skills, said Tanner Ellsworth who teaches the contestants professional skills.
Ellsworth said he hoped that viewers of the show will watch and learn some new skills through it also.
Cellcard Star Producer Aaron Leverton said the 12 contestants are between 18 and 25 years old and hail from Phnom Penh and Kompong Thom, Kratie and Kampot provinces.
The contestants have to live in the house according to very strict rules, including no TV, no free time and no leaving the house without permission.
One of the show’s contestants, Chhoun Sok Danin, 22, originally from Prey Veng province but studying in Phnom Penh said she decided to take part in the show because she wanted to learn how to sing better.
Allowed out of the house just three times each week to keep up with her studies, Chhoun Sok Danin said she will pursue marketing if she gets voted out of the house early.
But, for now, she’s here to succeed.
“I learn a lot here and I never feel bored…. I’m here to win,” she said.