Endemol, U.N. team for India campaign


NEW DELHI -- Reality TV giant Endemol on Wednesday partnered with the United Nations in India to form a music-based TV show called "Ustaad" (Master) to promote the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, a program designed to tackle everything from poverty to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Mumbai-based Endemol India, producer of local versions of "Big Brother" and "Fear Factor" for Sony Entertainment Television, and the New Delhi-based United Nations India office are negotiating a deal with a broadcast partner for "Ustaad," which Endemol India boss Rajesh Kamat said they hope will air in the next three months.

"Ustaad" will feature leading singers, musicians, composers and lyricists who will entertain viewers while raising awareness about the U.N. MDGs. Each episode will contain messages on the significance of the goals and the need for achieving them in India, Kamat said.

The U.N. Millennium Declaration was signed in September 2000 by 192 countries that agreed on eight goals, ranging from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015.

Kamat said that Endemol first discussed "Ustaad" at this year's MIPTV confab before pitching it to the U.N. India office and the United Nations Millennium Campaign. "While raising awareness, the show will be a commercial venture -- and not a fundraising activity -- in partnership with a broadcaster who is still being finalized," he said.

United Nations resident coordinator Maxine Olson said in a statement from New Delhi: "I am pleased that we are partnering with Endemol India to produce an innovative music show that will inspire millions of Indians across generations to take up the cause of the MDGs as their own."

Kamat said that the show's format is still being fine-tuned, given that it is a homegrown concept from India rather than an adaptation of an Endemol show. "Based on its performance here, I would not be surprised if it is picked up at some stage by Endemol affiliates worldwide for adaptation in other countries," he said.