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Commercialization Of The Indian Television Industry

“Every generation needs a revolution” says Thomas Jefferson. The


statement perfectly suits the revolution of television media in India. From
being an unaffordable, prestige – exhibiting show piece to being an
inevitable and integral part of every Indian’s life, the small screen has
reflected the nation’s development in a mammoth way. From
broadcasting programs twice a week and an hour a day to stepping into
half of all Indian households, the journey of the television has been
remarkable.
Television broadcasting, in India, started in the year 1959 from the
national capital Delhi. At that time the major broadcasting topics
included health awareness, rights and duties of a citizen, traffic and road
sense. It took 2 more years for entertainment programs, like music from
films, to join the line. Major revolution started in the year 1972 when a
second broadcasting station was opened in Bombay. Before the end of
1975, many major cities like Srinagar, Amritsar, Calcutta, and Madras
were blessed with the relay stations. Soon the media gained popularity
and even drove the government to design its own domestic satellite
service. Thus, the first ever Indian National Satellite, INSAT was
launched in 1982.

Equipped with a dedicated satellite service and, of course, the raising


demands for new programs, the government conceived the first ever
television channel doordarshan in the early 1800s. Being a country with
rich religious and mythological background, it wont be that surprising to
know that the first ever television programs to get broadcasted were
Ramayana and Mahabharatha. These two programs were a tremendous
success and also notched up the world record in viewership numbers for a
single program. On one hand there was a growing popularity of TV
among the Indian population and on the other, very soon, the programs
that were broadcasted reached saturation. Thus, to meet the growing
demand and urge for new programs, the government started another
channel, alongside DD1. This channel was called DD2 and later DD
Metro. It had a part of national and a part of regional broadcasting. Until
1976, television had been funded through a combination of television
licenses and allocations from the annual budget. But in 1976, the concept
of advertising served as a driving force for the commercialization of the
Doordarshan. Advertising, however, began in a very small way with
under 1% of Doordarshan's budget coming from advertising revenues in
1976-77. But the possibility of reaching a nation wide audience made
television look increasingly attractive to advertisers after the introduction
of the "National Programme" in 1982. In turn, Doordarshan began to shift
the balance of its programming from educational and informational
programs to entertainment programs like dramas, musical programs, quiz
programs etc. The popularity of advertising grew to such a proportion
that by 1990, Doordarshan's revenues from advertising were about $300
million, accounting for about 70% of its annual expenditure.

Slowly but surely, the Doordarshan’s original mandate to support social


and economic development had clearly been diluted. Entertainment and
commercial programs took a big time elevation and advertising served
the major source of funding for Doordarshan. Even until then, television
broadcasting was tied up with a single channel. Only metropolitan cities
had the luck to enjoy two channels.
This hurdle was crossed by the government’s liberalization program. In
1991, under Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, the central government
launched a series of economic and social reforms, which allowed the
private and foreign broadcasters to engage in limited operations across
India. This made many foreign channels like StarTV network, CNN,
MTV etc and many domestic channels like Zee, Sun etc to start their
broadcasts. Thus, starting with just a single channel in 1962, today in
India there are more than 70 million homes that own a TV and about 400
million viewing population through more than 150 channels! Also, it
must be emphasized that television entertainment in India is one of the
cheapest in the world.

In recent years, the Direct To Home (DTH) service is at large in India.


This has facilitated the reception of satellite programmes with a personal
dish in individual homes. There are, at present, 6 DTH service porviders.
Dish TV, Airtel, Reliance, Tata sky to name a few. The total subscriber
count has raised up to 5 million.

With the growing demand for new and innovative programmes, the
competition between various channels has indeed grown strong. Various
reality shows, music shows, sports broadcasting rights, movie licensing
has created a greater stir among the different channels. A metric called
Television Rating Point (TRP) is used to determine the collective
popularity of these shows, and thus the channel’s. Amidst these
competitions, our good old Doordarshan seems to have lost its charm and
it surely is the time now for the government to dust off the ideas and
stand up to the competition.
Before concluding, it is worth saying that the old ideologies of our
government, to use visual broadcasting for the purpose of national
building has faded away with time. But, during this time of financial
depression, growing external aggression, internal turbulence, it is
necessary to enlighten people on variety of issues. This, along with
providing a better understanding about the ongoing affairs, will surely
help to spearhead the nation towards development and towards the
betterment of oneness.