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Commentary Global Media Journal – Indian Edition/ISSN 2249-5835 Winter Issue / December 2011 Vol. 2/No.2

TELEVISION AND DEVELOPMENT COMMUNICATIONIN INDIA: A CRITICAL APPRAISAL Rommani Sen Shitak Research Scholar School of Communication Studies Punjab University, Chandigarh, India Email: rommanisen@gmail.com

Abstract: The paper traces the journey of television in India which started for promoting development and serving the cause of the poor and the underprivileged. While some efforts were made to fulfil these brave goals, television also earned the unholy reputation of being a vehicle for government propaganda. Doordarshan – the public service broadcaster was the only available terrestrial network till 1991 when transnational satellite television channels began to make forays into the country. Soon Indian players entered the television industry thereby leading to enormous expansion. Since then, the very nature of Indian broadcasting has changed. Television has transformed from a medium devoted to development communication and the cause of the marginalised, to a true middle-class medium. Contemporary Indian television is divorced from the realities of the 'other half of India that lives in abject poverty and deprivation, thus presenting a distorted view of social reality. This paper seeks to examine these and other related issues, and make some suggestions for policy initiatives to put the development agenda back on television.

Keywords: Indian television, Doordarshan, television and development communication, public service broadcasting, commercialisation of Indian television, broadcast regulation 1

Introduction

Out of the different mass media such as newspapers, radio, television, internet among others, the one introduced in the country with the aim of promoting development was television. Television began in India in 1959 as an educational project supported by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the Ford Foundation. Television was based on the model of a public broadcasting system prevalent in many countries of Europe. In independent India, the political leaders recognised the value of information and its use for accelerating the process of development. Thus was started a model of public broadcasting committed to inform, educate and entertain the people.

The then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru decided to have full government control over broadcasting for the time being. In retrospect, many observers feel that it was the hangover of the colonial legacy of controlling the media and fears about the power of the mass media to inflame social conflicts that prevented Indian policy makers from thinking creatively about radio and television in the country (Agrawal and Raghaviah, 2006; Jeffrey, 2006).

In the decades since 1959, vast changes took place in the television landscape of India. In its early years, apart from being used as an educational tool, television was also misused as a mouthpiece for the central government and the party in power. Programming was primarily in Hindi and much of the news and current affairs focussed on Delhi – the seat of political power (Johnson, 2000; Singhal and Rogers, 2001). Thus, while television was entrusted with the brave goal of promoting national integration, the same medium was found to reinforce a sense of alienation in many parts of the country particularly in the north-eastern states (Joshi, 1985; Ninan, 1995; Page and Crawley, 2001).

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Despite being the world leader in experimenting with television and satellite technology, India failed to capitalise on the lessons learnt from early development communication projects such as the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) and the much acclaimed Kheda Communication Project (Singhal and Rogers, 2001).

Contemporary Indian television is criticised by many for having shifted from its humanitarian goals and becoming a medium for the urban middle...
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