DUBAI //A popular Indian television channel will be adding local flavour to its mix with a series of segments about South Asian expatriates.
Unsung Heroes, part of the weekly Zee Connect show, will tell the stories of regular people from India, Pakistan and the surrounding region who are living in the UAE.
"In the buffet of entertainment that comes from India, local programming is the pickle that adds the flavour," said Manoj Mathew, the business head for Zee TV's South Asian channels.
"It will not just be about the rich and famous but about people across the board."
The Zee TV network says it reaches about 350,000 households in the UAE and more than a million across the Middle East. Up to 95 per cent of its programming - from reality shows to drama series - comes from India. But growing efforts are being made to ramp up the involvement of South Asian expatriates with community-based programming.
"Dubai is this huge success with stories of well-known brands and faces, but we wanted to focus on people in regular jobs not expecting any recognition," said Mukund Cairae, territory head for the network.
"These men and women have the right to be valued for their contribution."
The work of labourers, charity workers and other little-known expatriates from India, Pakistan and other South Asian nations will be showcased in a Hindi-English programme. Viewers will help nominate which weekly heroes are profiled.
"As long as there is viewer involvement, there will be high engagement and consumption," Mr Cairae said.
"When camera crews film places of desi [local] interest or go into viewers' homes to talk to viewers, that is the kind of involvement people want to see."
The segments, which will feature people from across the Emirates, will be part of a half-hour news show and will run every Saturday evening for the next 16 weeks.
Besides national Indian carriers such as Zee TV, the UAE market has also attracted regional channels from Kerala.
Manorama TV, for example, is one of 10 Malayalam-language channels producing news packages in the Emirates.
"All Malayalees are newsmongers. They can survive without breakfast but they must see and read news," said Rajeev Menon, the head of Manorama TV and news. "They want their own local news aired here. They want community news that touches them, what affects their lives."
@ For more on TELEVISION, visit thenational.ae/topics