Better is a relative term and has to be explained. First, Albania is a much larger country; Tirana alone has more than a million people versus the 670,000 in all of Albania. Poverty or more importantly, income extremes among the population, are issues in both countries. Both countries have more TV stations that they need but on a per person basis, “station density” is lower in Albania than in Montenegro. Second, program production looks better in Albania. There are some impressive locally produced shows; I would say the programs are better than anything done by local stations in the U.S., but local newscasts are about all U.S. stations do. There is little local program production anymore. Vizion Plus runs a knock-off of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” called “Quiz Plus” that airs on Wednesday and Friday nights. Their kids’ quiz show called, “Tales from the King” features questions about Albania’s history and pop culture and ends with a contestant being named king/queen of the Albanian terrority. Other local shows included a version of “Big Brother” called “Magic Eyes” and an “American Idol” show called “Friday Night Fever.” These are just a few of the locally produced programs on one station.
For a look at Vizion Plus, go to: http://www.vizionplus.tv/
Why do they produce these shows in Albania? Because the audience wants programming that’s produced in their language. International programming is often subtitled, which isn’t as much fun to watch—especially if the translations aren’t very accurate. Many Albanians understand English, Italian and Spanish, thanks to entertainment programming. But local programs are almost always more popular. (One of the exceptions of this rule are the many telenovelas--soap operas from Spain, Mexico or South America--that air in Albania, Montenegro and Serbia. They are subtitled. Because of Italy’s influence in Albania and Montenegro, many people speak or understand Italian and have gradually added Spanish to their language menu.)
Why don’t American stations produce local entertainment programming? Cost and ad revenue are primary reasons. To produce the sort of high production value programming most U.S. viewers demand, would result in programs that would lose money for the stations. You simply can’t price the ads high enough to make enough money to pay the expenses. Most of the Albanian stations have been learning this painful lesson also.
At one time stations jumped into programming ideas without considering how much ad revenue was available to support the program. That fact, combined with an excessive number of stations, has led nearly all stations to be unprofitable. This is generally true in Albania and Montenegro. Another factor of course is the limited advertising market.
(Side note: I’m watching “Inside Africa” on CNN as I work on this entry. What’s that? You’ve never heard of “Inside Africa”? It’s one of many great public affairs shows that Americans never get to see because it only airs on CNN International.)
The star news anchor at Vizion Plus is Sonila Meco. Vizion Plus hired her away from Top Channel, a competitor. It has been a good move for Vizion Plus. In a survey of about 505 respondents, she was the favorite news anchor of 39% of the respondents. The number two person was Ilva Tare, at 20%. She’s the former Vizion Plus anchor, now working for a competitor. I'd like to do a similar research project for a station in Montenegro.
Here’s are a couple of street shots from Tirana. Road expansion has been going on for more than a year throughout the city. It’s not uncommon to have trenches cut across streets or sidewalks, and there are few barriers or barricades to restrict the flow of traffic. One thing I admire about many of the cities I’ve visited in Montenegro, Serbia and Albania is the clear standard of common sense and personal responsibility that’s exists. Keep your eyes open, watch where you’re going and be responsible so that you don’t fall into a hole. And if you do fall, it’s your fault. To the left you see “Mr. Chicken,” my favorite fast food place in Tirana. They sell a sandwich containing chicken, fried potatoes, cucumber slices and plain yogurt, with a pita bread holding everything. It’s a little like a chicken fajita. The sidewalk in front of Mr. Chicken has almost been finished. I'll try to get an after shot... To the left of the young men in the photo is a long trench, about two feet across, two feet deep and 10 feet long. There are a couple of planks that serve as a "bridge" to cross the trench.