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Books > History > India on Television (How Satellite News Channels Have Changed the Way We Think and Act)
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India on Television (How Satellite News Channels Have Changed the Way We Think and Act)
India on Television (How Satellite News Channels Have Changed the Way We Think and Act)
Description

More than fifty 24-hour news networks, operating in eleven different languages, emerged in India between 1992 and 2006. This book traces the evolution of satellite television and how it effected major changes in political culture, the state, and expressions of Indian nationhood. Explaining how television was adapted to suit Indian conditions, the book focuses specifically on the emergence of satellite news channels. It shows how live television used new forms of technology to plug into existing modes of communication, which in turn led to the creation of a new visual language - national, regional and locl.

The story satellite television is also the story of India's encounter with globalization. This meticulouously researched and persuasively argued book tracks how the two have changed the face of media and impacted the lives of millions of Indians.

INDIA ON TELEVISION

How Satellite News Channels Have Changed the Way We Think and Act

Nalin Mehta

HarperCollins Publishers India a joint venture with

New Delhi

This book is dedicated to Papa, who taught me to question, and Ma, who taught me to persevere

Contents

Preface

ix

Prologue

I

I.

The State in a Box: Indian Television (I959-I99I)

22

2.

One to 300: News, Capitalism and Media Capital

56

3.

Control and Confusion: Broadcast Policy, the State and Transformation (I99I-2007)

IIO

4.

The News with Bunty and Babli: Advertising , Ratings and the Television News Economy

I40

5.

The Great Indian News Trick: Satellite Television and Cricket

I94

6.

Argumentative Television: Politics, Democracy and News

230

7.

Modi and the Camera: The Politics of Television in the 2002 Gujarat Riots

274

Epilogue

299

References

309

Index

38I

PREFACE

This book formally began in March 2004. Its real life, however, began much earlier in I997 when as a cub reporter at Zee TV, I was fortunate to be part of the team that created Zee India TV, the first 24-hour news channel in Hindi. Zee's move from five bulletins a day to round-the-clock rolling news was a seminal event in Indian television history. It was also an early education for me in the myriad intricacies of television. Subsequently, as a political correspondent for NDTV, the experience of covering India's first major communal riot in the age of 24-hour television—the Gujarat violence of 2002—raised many questions in my mind about the nature of television and its social impact. The sharp social cleavages and debates set off by the television coverage of that event first set in motion the process that has resulted in this book. At a deep subterranean level, this book is perhaps also an attempt to make sense of what I did in those early years in television; to find a meaning to the endless hours of following politicians, of climbing up electricity poles for the perfect picture and of jumping police barricades for that elusive sound-byte.aturally, this book is informed by my work in television. I hope it is the better for it, rather than limited by it.

If anyone deserves the credit for bringing this book to fruition, it is my guru Robin Jeffrey. Right from our first meeting on a freezing morning at the Melbourne airport, Robin has been a driving force. This book has grown out of the doctoral thesis that I wrote under him and it could never have been done without the endless articles and books I always found waiting in my pigeonhole, the emailing at weird hours, the endless discussions on India, and the plotting and planning for the "TV in Asia' project. Intellectually, of course, this book is a continuation of Robin's own seminal work on the transformation of India through its newspaper revolution. The greatest joy though has been his care and friendship that I have come to cherish.

Naturally, such a project could not have been done without the active cooperation of many in Indian television: at Times Now, Arnab Goswamy, whose initial help saved at least six months of research and who brought me back into television; at CNN-IBN, Rajdeep Sardesai, friend and guru, who always remained available; at NDTV, Prannoy and Radhika Roy, who kindly offered their full support, Srinivasan Jain and Radhika Bordia, who opened closed doors, Vikram Chandra, who was kind as ever, Manoranjan Bharti, who supplied Congress documents, Barkha Dutt, who taught me many a television trick, and Pankaj Pachaury, who opened his heart; at STAR, the generosity and friendship of Uday Shankar, who stimulated the wildest of ideas; at Zee TV, Laxmi Goel, who remembered to send tapes, and Satish K. Singh; at Aaj Tak, Rahul Kulshrestha, old friend and Scindian, and GK Krishnan, who replied so promptly to emails; at TAM Media, Atul Phadnis, who gave his time so freely; at Kolkata TV, Suman Chattopadhyaya; and at Channel 7, Shantanu Guha Roy, who along with information, dispensed channel T-shirts. The interviews for this book were carried out between 2004and 2007and all affiliations relate to the dates on which they were conducted.

Many of the details in this book came over long cups of tea, and other liquids — in office canteens and other usual journalistic haunts. Information, advice and general gossip came from many and they cannot all be named here. Except, of course, Sanjeev Singh, old comrade-in-arms; Ravish Kumar, who always had an opinion and as her; and Bhupendra Chaubey, who always knew the latest conspiracy.

Large chunks of this book accrue directiy to the help of Anand Tiwary at UNAIDS, who helped open many a corporate door, particularly at the prime minister's media summit in 2005.Mahesh Rangarajan provided some valuable early leads, Anshuman Goenka kindly handed over his meticulous television files, Vartika Nanda at IIMC uncomplainingly arranged recordings of news bulletins and the kind folk at Mumbai's CED provided three whole folders of newspaper clippings at short notice. After a chance meeting at Wollongong, Michael Curtin from the University of Wisconsin very kindly emailed parts of his book manuscript long before it came out in print. For that, I can never be less thankful. Ulrike Niklaus at National University of Singapore introduced me to the wonderful television-temples of Pondicherry and then facilitated a research trip by providing generous hospitality in Korkadu. In Korkadu itself, the help provided by Desigan and his associates in the South Indian Folklore Society was invaluable.

This book was written at Melbourne's La Trobe Universitywhich also funded the bulk of the research through two separate grants. Funding for the 'TV in Asia' project from the International Centre for Excellence in Asia-Pacific Studies, Australian National University, led to various useful linkages that also contributed directly to my work. At La Trobe, I was also fortunate to have a large support structure. The enthusiasm of Dennis Altaian, who took over after Robin left for busier climes, was a constant source of encouragement and a major incentive. Sanjay Seth first asked the question, 'What is the point of this story?' It has driven me ever since and I hope I have done justice to it. Sanjay also read an early draft at short notice, Raj Pandey has always been a darling and they were both my pillars in Melbourne; their friendship is too cherished to narrate here. Boria Majumdar ignited many ideas, particularly the chapter on cricket, which was born after an engrossing long adda, and is now a partner in many crimes—academic and otherwise along with sharmishtha. He also read the draft at many stages but his real contributions are far too many to narrate. Others at La Trobe have been a pleasure to work with, to know and to chat endlessly with: Assa Doron, Maxine Loynd and Madeline Healey—all guru bhais and behens and wonderful comrades in Ph. D.-dom.

In the end there are four people, to even begin thanking whom is, frankly, ridiculous. The first three: my father, who has always been a guiding light and without whose encouragement I would never have embarked on this adventure; my mother, who has always been a source of great strength, and Nitin, who insists on being named here. No one has read more drafts of this book than my father and perhaps, because they know me, both he and mum always began every telephonic conversation with, 'When are you finishing?'

In the end, there is Nitika, who flew half-way around the world for this book, has heard a million oral expositions of it, edited it at every step and has always been the voice of reason. To even attempt tabulating her contributions is silly. For the record though, only her patience, her wisdom and her good sense could have seen me through this project. Television is a great delight but she remains my greatest.

Nalin Mehta May 2007

PROLOGUE

Satellites and the Promise of News

Satellite television news networks have never expanded as they have in India. In less than a decade, between I998 and 2006, India has experienced the rise of more than 50 24-hour satellite news channels, broadcasting news in II different languages (Figure P.I). They are a prominent part of a vibrant satellite television industry, comprising more than 300 channels, that has targeted Indian homes since the early I990s.IIn one form or the other, at least I06 of these broadcast daily news in I4 regional languages, and their emergence marks a sharp break with the past. They have arisen in a country where the state had monopolised broadcasting since independence, and as late as I99I, India had only one government-controlled television network. Until private satellite networks shattered the barriers of state control, television was meant only to be the voice of the Indian state, its daily Trojan horse into the living rooms of its citizens. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Doordarshan's daily news coverage. The new private channels, for the first time, brought with them the heady promise of 'independent' television news, as distinct from government propaganda. The nature of 'independence', of course, varies across networks but their very rise illustrates how rapidly the Indian state lost control over television. The existence of such a strong private satellite news industry appears even starker when compared with the fact that private radio networks in India are still banned from broadcasting news, which remains a monopoly of government radio.

These upheavals in the nature of Indian television have been accompanied by a simultaneous expansion in its reach and penetration. In I992,if you divided India's population of 846,388,ooo2 by the total number of television sets in the country,3 the number of people clustering around a set would have been a little over 26. By 2006, that ratio had come down substantially to just over I0people per television set, despite a substantial increase in the population.4 In a little over a decade, the total number of Indian television households tripled to reach an estimated II2million.5 It made India the world's third largest television market, just behind China and the United States,6 and more than 60per cent of these television sets are estimated to be connected to satellite dishes.7 It is numbers like these that have attracted global media corporations, with both India and China gradually turning into new focal points of the global communication industry.8

The numbers signify a much larger story. The rise of satellite television, and satellite news networks, has engendered a transformation in India's political culture, the nature of the state and expressions of Indian nationhood. Much like India's 'newspaper revolution'I0 that started in the I970s, and the 'cassette culture'II of the I980s, the availability of privately

Fig. P.l: Satellite News Channels in India9

Language

Channels that broadcast news

24-hour news networks

All

106

54

Hindi

25

19

English

15

14

Malayalam

9

4

Tamil

12

2

Telugu

10

4

Bengali

8

4

Punjabi

7

3

Kannada

7

1

Marathi

4

1

Assamese/Manipuri

2

-

Gujarati

3

1

Oriya

2

1

Urdu

1

-

Nepali

1

1

produced satellite television has meant that 'people discovered new ways to think about themselves and to participate in politics that would have been unthinkable a generation before.'I2 Live television is a powerful force. It differs significantly from traditional media because of its visual nature and its capacity to simultaneously capture and publicise 'reality'—or at least what seems like reality. Wallace Westfeldt, a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean in the I950s, aptly captured some of this magic of television when he argued that television coverage of the American civil rights disturbances in that period 'gave that story a color and attraction and emphasis that newspapers couldn't do. Even without commentary, a [television] shot of a big white man spitting and cursing at black children did more to open up the national intellect than my stories ever could.'I3 Police dogs let loose on black protesters looked like police dogs in newspaper and magazine photos, but on television, the dogs snarled.I4 Compounding the social potential of television, Indian networks have arisen in a dynamic multimedia environment, almost in tandem with new media like the internet and mobile technology. By marrying the continuous cycle of 24-hour rolling news with these personalised new technologies, India's 24-hour news channels provide a new avenue for politics and 'public' activity that is profoundly transformative.

Let me illustrate the meaning of Indian 24-hour news with a story that occupied two days of non-stop live coverage on Indian news channels in July 2006.It began on July 2Iwhen Prince, the five-year-old son of a farm labourer, fell into a narrow 55-foot pit being dug for a water borewell in Aldeharhi village, some I50km north of Delhi. Once, the missing son of a farm labourer would not have been important enough for reportage in anything other than a local daily. Indeed, in similar incidents in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Madhya Pradesh just a few months earlier, when little children fell into such construction pits, they died without more than a cursory mention in the national press.I5 In the case of Prince, however, producers at various national networks saw the promise of a good story and ratings.I6 A number of channels scrapped their regular programming to cover the rescue attempt live, except that there were simply no specialised rescue services in the area. When Prince became a television 'story', however, the event acquired a life of its own.

With local authorities unable to rescue Prince, Armyengineers were called in. It is from this point that live television pictures turned the story into a national soap opera. Television's focus meant that politicians could not keep away and had to be seen to be reacting. The prime minister's office intervened directly, with a promise to take 'full medical care' and a statement that it 'prays for the speedy rescue and good health of the young boy.'I7 To aid the Army, a special team of fire-fighters was airlifted from Mumbai on board an especially chartered Indian Air Force plane and by the morning of July 23,the chief minister of Haryana, senior members of his cabinet and the MP from Kurukshetra all reached the site to personally 'monitor' the rescue operation.I8 By this time, a CCTV camera, lowered into the pit, was broadcasting live pictures of Prince as he waited to be saved. He was transformed into a national cause as special prayer meetings began to be held all over the country, cutting across religious lines—at the Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai, at the Laxmi Narayan temple in Delhi, at the famous shrine in Puri, at the Kali Bari in Kolkata, at churches in Goa, at the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, even at a blind school in Allahabad. All of these featured prominently on television and news anchors actively sought to construct a national crusade, stressing on how the prayer meetings were only a reflection of 'national unity'.I9 Many networks asked viewers to SMS their support and they received thousands of SMS messages—which many displayed in a continuous scroll across the screen. By the time Prince was finally rescued, 50hours after he first fell into the ditch, the event had been broadcast live on many news channels for more than 24hours. Ecstatic messages from viewers filled television screens—one viewer compared him to an incarnation of Krishna, another gleefully announced that India was now 'ready to take on terrorism'.20 Even Parliament's monsoon session opened with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha registering prayers of support for the rescued Prince on behalf of the entire House.2I

The rescue of Prince exemplified the story of 24-hour news television. For television producers, such a story had 'emotional value' beyond the local: they sought to turn it into a national event and it became one. The continuous live coverage, the televised prayer meetings, the thousands of SMS messages, the involvement of the prime minister's office, the Army's top brass and the state's chief minister all linked up in a chain reaction that was first initiated by a television producer's decision to start broadcasting the story, instead of ignoring it like a local mishap. For instance, the Army's engineers might have been called anyway but this time they came with a supervising Major General. Influential sections of the political class and the state, from the prime minister downwards directly got involved in rescuing a poor villager's son and television actively sought to construct a united nation. Of course, the networks focused on the story to increase ratings and the fact that they ignored all else for two days raised serious questions:

Wasn't the coverage disproportionate to the event in this vast billion-plus nation where 25violent crimes take place every hour, 59housewives commit suicide every day, and where two rapes, four murders, I0 culpable homicides and one dowry death occur on an hourly basis? Wasn't this publicity lopsided? Didn't channels go over the top?22

The criticism is valid but it misses the larger point of thePrince story: 24-hour television news has brought a new and revolutionary theatre to the daily life of India. It is a theatre that quite literally never stops; one in which increasingly large numbers of citizens are not just the audience, but also find themselves 'on stage, part of, and thereby able to influence, a far larger political play.'23 It has made possible new ways of imagining identities, conducting politics and engaging with the state. It may not always be used for liberal or for 'right' purposes but it brings immense possibilities that simply did not exist even a generation before. This is the story that this book seeks to explain: the vast changes in Indian television, and India, over the past decade. Explaining how television, a medium that developed in the industrial West, was adapted to suit Indian conditions, the book focuses specifically on the emergence of satellite news channels.

Operating at the junction of politics, capitalism and globalisation, 24-hour news channels offer a unique entry point to understanding the contours of India's new satellite television industry and its implications for the state, politics and culture. Through the prism of news channels, the book seeks to answer critical questions about the relationship of television, globalisation and capitalism; the role of television channels in creating political identities; and what this means for India's liberal democracy. By 2006, more Indians were estimated to be watching satellite television than reading newspapers,24 and this book maps the rise of satellite television from the point of view of its producers. It sets out to answer why television is growing, who pays for it, who profits from it, who produces it, who controls it and what changes it brings. It argues that though news channels were driven by capitalist motives of profit generation, their efforts led to the creation of new visual publics—national, regional and local—that altered politics and forms of identity formation in significant ways. Live television news used new forms of technology to plug into existing social nodes of communication, introduced a new kind of publicness and initiated a social transformation.

Indian Television: Filling the Satellite Gap

Indian television's pace of change has been so fast that scholarship on the subject has failed to keep pace. Much of it predates the rise of satellite TV and almost all the major works on the subject have focused either on the period before the rise of satellite television or when it was still in its infancy. Much water has flown down the Ganga since Indian viewers first encountered the still 'illegal' images of CNN during the first Gulf War and satellite television looms like a black spot in the study of modern India, particularly when compared with the excellent accounts of state television that preceded it. Nowhere is the paucity of scholarship more apparent than in the fact that there has so far been no detailed published study of the rise of India's news networks and their social significance. This is the gap that this book aims to fill. It aims to be the first detailed account of their rise and social significance.

The historiography of Indian television can be divided into the pre- and post-satellite period. The story of the pre-satellite period is fairly simple: television was a cultural and political instrument of the state, simultaneously implicit in the creation of a consumerist middle class. Its various manifestations have found able chroniclers—from former broadcasters25 to critical scholars like Purnima Mankekar and Arvind Rajagopal. Mankekar's ethnographic and textual work, for example, sketched how the state attempted to use television to create a 'modern' nation and reinforce notions of the family and womanhood, while also underlining television's close linkages with the creation of a middle class.26 Similarly, long before the rise of the satellite networks, Rajagopal raised serious questions about the nature of Indian 'politics after television'. Titled as such, his insightful study of Hindu nationalism explicitly focused on the linkages between the media, the new consumerism and politics. For Rajagopal, the new media re-shaped the context in which politics was 'conceived, enacted and understood' and the aggressive political movement to fashion a Hindu public in the late I980s and early I990s could only be understood 'within the nexus of market reforms and the expansion of communications, rather than religious reaction as such.'27

All this, though, is quite literally, history. It informs and shapes the present but the story of the post-satellite era necessitates a fresh look. Rajagopal's authoritative account, for instance, chronicled the role of audio-visual media in the Bharatiya Janata Party's rise to prominence in the I990sbut its discussion of television ended before the emergence of a single satellite news network. There has been no detailed account of the interface of Indian politics and television since. Just as Indian television diffused into hundreds of channels, so has the scholarship. Individual accounts have focused on specific content-based issues—Melissa Butcher's analysis of the cultural impact of Star,28 Amrita Shah's focus on television fiction and middle class morality29 or Vamsee Juluri on youth cultures30—but there is no single authoritative text mapping the architecture and the larger social significance of the new television regime. They have all been valuable contributions to the study of Indian popular culture but few have really focused on satellite television's significance beyond its content—to the new connections, the new social relationships, and the new ways of engaging with the state and society that it has brought.

The only major study that attempted to paint the story of Indian satellite television on a wide canvass—in economic, political and social terms—is Sevanti Ninan's authoritative Through the Magic Window. An impressive survey of the transformative role of television in its early years, it was, however, written as early as I995 and long before the rise of round-the-clock news.3I The same applies to Christiane Brosius and Melissa Butcher's excellent edited collection on television and cultural change, which offered an early panorama of Indian television's many manifestations.32 Many new channels have emerged since then, programming genres have substantially changed and so has the politics of, and around, television. Indian broadcast law, for instance, has long been a barometer of the politics of satellite television. However, the last major study of it was published as far back as I997.33 That was before a single news channel had emerged in India and, as this book will show, their emergence led to substantial changes in media law which were at the heart of contentious battles over the nature of the Indian state, the limits of its control, and indeed, notions of Indian-ness. Similarly, William Page and David Crawley's Satellites Over South Asia sign-posted a roadmap of the region's changing television infrastructure and, while offering valuable nuggets of information, did not investigate any specific aspects of news broadcasting.34 It opened a window towards understanding what has been happening in India on the whole, but stopped well short of detailed analysis. Then there are economic accounts of the media, such as Vanita Kohli's The Indian Media Business. Its section on television treats it almost entirely as an economic entity, rather than a cultural one and certainly does not enquire into its political manifestations.35

Clearly, there is a satellite-size gap in the scholarship of Indian television. The medium has expanded so fast that key areas remain largely unexplored: news networks and their impact on politics and democracy; television and its role in augmenting notions of nationalism, particularly with reference to sport in general, and cricket in particular; and the global impact of Indian television. This book aims to bridge this gap in the study of modern India. It treats the genre of news channels as a microcosm of the satellite industry as a whole and, by studying their rise, seeks to answer crucial questions about how television came to India, what television is doing to it, and what India has done to television.

The story and impact of India's television encounter is told through seven chapters: the nature of the state's monopoly over television until the early I990s;the entry of global satellite television and how Indian capitalists negotiated the boundaries of state control to go from one to 300channels in less than a decade; the transformation of the Indian state, seen through the prism of broadcast law and the television economy; advertising and the burgeoning strength of Indian capitalism that is fuelling the rapid expansion of television; the close linkages between television and questions of national identity through a case study of cricket programming; and finally news television's impact on politics, through an analysis of the links between television programming and democratic culture; and a separate case study of the Gujarat riots and assembly election of 2002. Together, these chapters document the complex ways in which satellite television transformed India, while it was simultaneously being Indianised.

In the absence of published sources on news channels, I have had to build my own archive along the way and apart from the first chapter, which focuses on television before the emergence of satellites, this book is primarily based on three kinds of primary sources. The first is nearly 50interviews with television network owners, journalists, media managers, advertisers, cable operators and senior politicians—at the national, regional and local levels. The interviews were conducted between 2004and 2007at various places in India and overseas: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Pondicherry, Raipur, Shanghai and Melbourne. They reveal a great deal of previously unknown data about the nature of satellite television, and the many complexities inherent in its evolution. For instance, NDTV's Prannoy Roy recounts the panicky phone calls from the prime minister's office when he anchored the first private live bulletin on Doordarshan and the comic solution of a five-minute delay in the live telecast that subsequently allowed the bureaucrats to keep up the semblance of control. It was a seminal moment in Indian television and Roy's account sheds new light on the early story of rise of private television (Chapter 2). Similarly, the BJP's vice-president, Arun Jaitely, references his career as a BJP spokesperson to a decision by NDTV to invite him to its studios, in preference to other senior leaders, because he could answer questions in 'twenty seconds' (Chapter 6). Many of these interviews are quoted at length and they provide the flesh and blood of this book. Of course, sometimes people forget details—memories cloud, perceptions morph into fact. Therefore, many of the people that feature in this account have been interviewed more than once—some as many as five or six times—often, after cross-referencing their accounts with others. The second major primary source of this book is primary industry documentation, in the form of presentations shown to the author by television managers, company prospectuses and industry reports. This data provides details of the industry's economic structure and its larger significance for the changing nature of the Indian economy. The third major source is television content, mostly sourced from the archives of various channels. This book is not an ethnography. It does not engage in detailed expositions on the nature of content and its meaning, of and by itself. Where it studies content, it studies it in relation to the larger processes driving television, such as the relationship with advertising and ratings, or where it signifies deeper social changes, such as those in the nature of politics. Between them, these sources reveal a complex narrative of a television news industry and a nation-state that is in constant flux. The changes ebb and flow but the direction of change is unmistakable, with television serving as a catalyst.

Television, Publicness and Social Change

When television arrives in a society, it alters the societal matrix. For instance, writing of the social impact of television when it first arrived in Canada, Robin Jeffrey recounts:

Our habits changed. At first, before our family had a television, we started dropping in on friends at the starting times of popular programs. Then, when we had a television set, we went out much less and stayed up later at night. Sports, election nights and momentous events kept us around the set like thirsty animals around a waterhole.36

The exact nature of television's influence on societies has been debated ever since Marshall McLuhan argued that new technology itself was a 'revolutionizing agent',37 coining his now famous aphorism: 'The medium is the message'. Insisting that every new technology, by itself—from the wheel and the alphabet to the telegraph and television—had changed social relations and mental attitudes,38 McLuhan understood new media like television 'not just [as] mechanical gimmicks for creating illusions of the world', but as containing 'new languages and unique powers of expression.'39:

The new media are not ways of relating us to the old 'real' world; they are the real world and they reshape what remains of the old world at will... The effects of new media in our sensory lives are similar to the effects of new poetry. They change not our thoughts but the structure of the world.40

McLuhan's ideas were often not backed up with empirical research4I but they were a significant break from earlier works on critical social theory, stemming from the Frankfurt School, which largely saw the media as a 'mechanism of social control' to reproduce an unequal social order.42 McLuhan drew intellectually from the innovative ideas of another Canadian, Harold Innis, who, in his two major works, Empires and Communication and The Bias of Communications, essentially visualised human history as the history of communication technologies.43 Their ideas became the kernel for a large body of work on such themes, focusing especially on the ways in which electronic media have altered thinking patterns and social organisation in different ways.44 Joshua Meyrowitz, forinstance, argued that electronic media, particularly television, subverted the logic ofthe social order by blurring the boundaries between the public and private spheres, by bringing together previously different experiential worlds and by changing the 'situational geography' of social life. It created new groups of identities and socialisation, altered the distinction between childhood and adulthood and undermined traditional notions of hierarchy and authority.45 In short, it was at least partly implicit in many seemingly unrelated social upheavals like the civil rights movement, changes in family structure, challenges to the authority of professionals and so on. As Meyrowitz sums up, subsequent theorists of media and culture have taken different approaches and reached different conclusions, but when taken together their works reveal a fairly consistent image of the 'interaction of media and culture':

Broadly speaking, these theorists' work cohere into a shared image of three phases of civilization matched to three major forms of communicating: the move from traditional oral societies to modern print societies (via a transitional scribal phase), to an electronic global culture.46

It is in this context that John B. Thompson, in the early nineties, proposed his social theory of the media. Forcefully arguing that mass media, and television, have transformed the nature of publicness itself, Thompson shows how mass media create a sieve of 'mediated publicness' through which all public life now passes. This new publicness is de-spatialized, non-dialogical and received in settings spatially and temporally remote from the original context of production.47 Reception is often at odds with the intentions of its creators—the recipient's own assumptions and expectations regulate how they are interpreted and appropriated and the meaning of the message is fluid, taking different forms for different people.48

These approaches inform the first great question that this book addresses: the nature of social and political change brought about by Indian television. Chapter 6specifically outlines the broad trends underpinning the interface between television and politics, and their implications for Indian democracy. It argues that the emergence of television news networks is intimately connected with mechanisms of public discussion and interactive reasoning, and has enhanced and strengthened deliberative Indian democracy. It also identifies the social sources of news television and moves beyond the political economy equation to argue that the rise of Indian news television can only be understood in the context of a society with a strong argumentative tradition of public reasoning. Indian television thrives on programming genres that marry older argumentative traditions with new technology and notions of liberal democracy to create new hybrid forms that strengthen democratic culture. It then moves on to a genealogy of politics on satellite television that focuses on the specific ways in which the medium emerged as a new factor in the Indian political matrix in the mid-I990sand changed the daily practices of politics because of the 24-hour publicity it provided. Chapter 7 uses these arguments as a backdrop to analyse a specific instance where television changed the politics of public violence, the 2002Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat. It shows how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) effectively managed to mediate its political message to its constituency by linking the television coverage of the violence to larger questions of religion and region, even though the detail in that coverage was largely anti-BJP.

Chapters 2and 3refer to what the rise of news networks mean for the Indian state. Chapter 2, in particular, argues that far from being a simple techno-centric offshoot of the economic reform process that started in I99I,Indian satellite television grew because of a unique confluence of economic, political and technological factors. It sketches the complexity of responses that the medium drew from different organs of the state—some embraced it while others consistently opposed it. Chapter 3carries this argument further and specifically focuses on broadcast policy and its meanings. It argues that the control of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, that monopolised broadcasting since inception, has been reduced because immense changes in the political economy of India have overtaken it. Every minister of broadcasting since I99Ihas tried to assert otherwise but none very successfully. When the old command model of television was shaken up, the hitherto all-powerful, seemingly unitary state failed to evolve a coherent regulatory regime catering to the new realities for more than a decade. After an initial period of denial by the state, a series of loose and parallel systems of control emerged, often at cross-purposes with each other, and none very effective. This was true at least until mid-2007 and the new Broadcast Bill of 2007is an attempt to fill in the vast grey areas in the legal structures of broadcasting. India's encounter with private broadcasting offers an illuminating case study to understand the larger trajectory of changes that engulfed the Nehruvian state after it embarked on economic reform.

Chai in a Coke Bottle: Television, Transformation and Globalisation

The second major question that this book deals with is the connection between satellite television and the processes of globalisation. Chapter 2 shows that satellite television came to India as an agent of global capitalism, that Indian entrepreneurs were initially in subordinate positions, but that they gradually leveled the playing field and reversed the power equation. So much so that we are now seeing the beginning of a gradual reordering of global media flows with India transforming from a mere receiver to a major supplier. In global terms, Indian networks have so far served large diasporas around the world but they have recently started branching out into foreign languages as well. Both Zee TV and NDTV, for instance, have been involved in setting up channels in Bahasa Indonesia. Zee is now looking to branch out in local languages in Russia, Malaysia and Afghanistan. The point is that India appropriated satellite television, Indianised it.

Complex forms of globalisation are embedded within Indian television's evolution and Chapter 5specifically uses the example of cricket and sport programming to document the cultural implications of this Indianisation. Television has been Indianised because news channels put what might be termed global practices of television through an Indian lens, re-marrying them with reconstituted elements of what are seen as 'Indian' practices to create new hybrid genres of programming. Because private television came to India as a foreign entity, Indian producers in the early years largely followed Western formats, which served as a benchmark. As competition intensified, however, economic pressures turned news producers into mediators of what they understood to be an 'Indian' identity. They tapped into Indian oral traditions and traditional patterns of social communication that historians and sociologists have long documented and channeled them into television. Far from following Western models, news programming tapped into existing subaltern modes of communication and reproduced them on screen. The 'mediated' nature of the tele-visual medium means that these traditions are not transferred as is, but repackaged with the use of new interactive technologies in a form that resembles, but is still vastly different from, the original. Chapter 5uses cricket to illustrate what this means for notions of identity and Indian-ness.

Satellite television is one of the most obvious manifestations of what has come to be called globalisation. Its technological capabilities have been adapted in unforeseen ways but debates on globalisation, media and cultural impact have struggled to keep up with the pace of innovation. The central problem in cultural debates on globalisation has been the 'tension between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization.'49 But many of these debates revolve around the traditional notions of a dominant centre and dependent periphery and, though many scholars have argued in favour of more 'hybridized', complex and overlapping information flows,50 empirical work on how such processes work within the non-Western media has been thin. As Elizabeth Jacka and Stuart Cunningham sum up:

Most theorists of globalisation have tended to overemphasise the centrality of the US in the audiovisual industries and to be preoccupied with audience negotiation of the dominant US product. They have viewed cultural exchange through a peculiarly metropolitan prism.5I

This leads to a problem. In a different context, Meaghan Morris, for instance, argues that too often narratives of change recount 'a known history, something which has already happened elsewhere, and which is to be reproduced, mechanically or otherwise, with a local content.'52 In the Indian context, for instance, concerns of CNNisation/MTVisation still dominate the media discourse.53 The reality, though, is vastly different.

This book will show that Indian television is as much local as it is global. News channels have re-worked what they understand as Indian difference to build a national market but this process can only be understood in relation to, not in isolation from, global tendencies. It stresses that the complexities of modern mass media often defy neat categorisations of the local' and the 'global', locked in eternal combat with each other. Most nuanced cultural studies of globalisation stress that the local and the global are often two sides of the same coin.54 As William Mazarella notes:

By the end of the millennium, then, both marketers and anthropologists understood that 'the local' and 'the global' are not opposites; rather, they are mutually constitutive imaginary moments in every attempt to make sense of the world, whether for disciplinary, commercial, scholarly, or radical purposes.55

This is the broad approach taken in (just simplifying language ©) this book. The argument is that television came to India like an imported bottle of Coca Cola but it was refilled with Indianchai or, if you like, country liquor. What goes into the bottle is determined by economic, political and cultural considerations and can only be understood by studying television in relation to its wider local environment. Indian entrepreneurs adapted television's Coke bottle to Indian conditions and sometimes replaced it altogether with an earthen kulhar (cup), but neither the chai nor the kulhar can be understood without reference to the original bottle.

Fantastic.... Nalin has beautifully pieced together the real, untold story behind the soundbytes

ARNAB GOSWAMI Editor-in-Chief & Vice President,Times Now

Mehta explains a complex story of how Indian television, in the space of about 15 years, became the country's most dynamic medium and how the consequences of that change affect sport, politics and most aspects of daily life. This is a "don't miss" book for anyone following the transformation of India.ROBIN JEFFREY Director,Research School of Pcific & Asian Studies, Australin National University

More than fifty 24 -hour news networks, operating in eleven different languages, emerged in India between 1992 and 2006. This book traces the evolution of satellite television and how it effected major changes in political culture, the state, and expressions of Indian nationhood. Explaining how television was adapted to suit Indian conditions, the book focuses specifically on the emergence of satellite news channels. It shows how live television used new forms of technology to plug into existing modes of communication, which in turn led to the creation of a new visual language - national, regional and local.

The story of satellitetelevision is also the story of India's encounter with globalization. This meticulously researched and persuasively argued book tracks how the two have: changed the face of mass media and impacted the lives of millions of Indians.

India on Television (How Satellite News Channels Have Changed the Way We Think and Act)

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More than fifty 24-hour news networks, operating in eleven different languages, emerged in India between 1992 and 2006. This book traces the evolution of satellite television and how it effected major changes in political culture, the state, and expressions of Indian nationhood. Explaining how television was adapted to suit Indian conditions, the book focuses specifically on the emergence of satellite news channels. It shows how live television used new forms of technology to plug into existing modes of communication, which in turn led to the creation of a new visual language - national, regional and locl.

The story satellite television is also the story of India's encounter with globalization. This meticulouously researched and persuasively argued book tracks how the two have changed the face of media and impacted the lives of millions of Indians.

INDIA ON TELEVISION

How Satellite News Channels Have Changed the Way We Think and Act

Nalin Mehta

HarperCollins Publishers India a joint venture with

New Delhi

This book is dedicated to Papa, who taught me to question, and Ma, who taught me to persevere

Contents

Preface

ix

Prologue

I

I.

The State in a Box: Indian Television (I959-I99I)

22

2.

One to 300: News, Capitalism and Media Capital

56

3.

Control and Confusion: Broadcast Policy, the State and Transformation (I99I-2007)

IIO

4.

The News with Bunty and Babli: Advertising , Ratings and the Television News Economy

I40

5.

The Great Indian News Trick: Satellite Television and Cricket

I94

6.

Argumentative Television: Politics, Democracy and News

230

7.

Modi and the Camera: The Politics of Television in the 2002 Gujarat Riots

274

Epilogue

299

References

309

Index

38I

PREFACE

This book formally began in March 2004. Its real life, however, began much earlier in I997 when as a cub reporter at Zee TV, I was fortunate to be part of the team that created Zee India TV, the first 24-hour news channel in Hindi. Zee's move from five bulletins a day to round-the-clock rolling news was a seminal event in Indian television history. It was also an early education for me in the myriad intricacies of television. Subsequently, as a political correspondent for NDTV, the experience of covering India's first major communal riot in the age of 24-hour television—the Gujarat violence of 2002—raised many questions in my mind about the nature of television and its social impact. The sharp social cleavages and debates set off by the television coverage of that event first set in motion the process that has resulted in this book. At a deep subterranean level, this book is perhaps also an attempt to make sense of what I did in those early years in television; to find a meaning to the endless hours of following politicians, of climbing up electricity poles for the perfect picture and of jumping police barricades for that elusive sound-byte.aturally, this book is informed by my work in television. I hope it is the better for it, rather than limited by it.

If anyone deserves the credit for bringing this book to fruition, it is my guru Robin Jeffrey. Right from our first meeting on a freezing morning at the Melbourne airport, Robin has been a driving force. This book has grown out of the doctoral thesis that I wrote under him and it could never have been done without the endless articles and books I always found waiting in my pigeonhole, the emailing at weird hours, the endless discussions on India, and the plotting and planning for the "TV in Asia' project. Intellectually, of course, this book is a continuation of Robin's own seminal work on the transformation of India through its newspaper revolution. The greatest joy though has been his care and friendship that I have come to cherish.

Naturally, such a project could not have been done without the active cooperation of many in Indian television: at Times Now, Arnab Goswamy, whose initial help saved at least six months of research and who brought me back into television; at CNN-IBN, Rajdeep Sardesai, friend and guru, who always remained available; at NDTV, Prannoy and Radhika Roy, who kindly offered their full support, Srinivasan Jain and Radhika Bordia, who opened closed doors, Vikram Chandra, who was kind as ever, Manoranjan Bharti, who supplied Congress documents, Barkha Dutt, who taught me many a television trick, and Pankaj Pachaury, who opened his heart; at STAR, the generosity and friendship of Uday Shankar, who stimulated the wildest of ideas; at Zee TV, Laxmi Goel, who remembered to send tapes, and Satish K. Singh; at Aaj Tak, Rahul Kulshrestha, old friend and Scindian, and GK Krishnan, who replied so promptly to emails; at TAM Media, Atul Phadnis, who gave his time so freely; at Kolkata TV, Suman Chattopadhyaya; and at Channel 7, Shantanu Guha Roy, who along with information, dispensed channel T-shirts. The interviews for this book were carried out between 2004and 2007and all affiliations relate to the dates on which they were conducted.

Many of the details in this book came over long cups of tea, and other liquids — in office canteens and other usual journalistic haunts. Information, advice and general gossip came from many and they cannot all be named here. Except, of course, Sanjeev Singh, old comrade-in-arms; Ravish Kumar, who always had an opinion and as her; and Bhupendra Chaubey, who always knew the latest conspiracy.

Large chunks of this book accrue directiy to the help of Anand Tiwary at UNAIDS, who helped open many a corporate door, particularly at the prime minister's media summit in 2005.Mahesh Rangarajan provided some valuable early leads, Anshuman Goenka kindly handed over his meticulous television files, Vartika Nanda at IIMC uncomplainingly arranged recordings of news bulletins and the kind folk at Mumbai's CED provided three whole folders of newspaper clippings at short notice. After a chance meeting at Wollongong, Michael Curtin from the University of Wisconsin very kindly emailed parts of his book manuscript long before it came out in print. For that, I can never be less thankful. Ulrike Niklaus at National University of Singapore introduced me to the wonderful television-temples of Pondicherry and then facilitated a research trip by providing generous hospitality in Korkadu. In Korkadu itself, the help provided by Desigan and his associates in the South Indian Folklore Society was invaluable.

This book was written at Melbourne's La Trobe Universitywhich also funded the bulk of the research through two separate grants. Funding for the 'TV in Asia' project from the International Centre for Excellence in Asia-Pacific Studies, Australian National University, led to various useful linkages that also contributed directly to my work. At La Trobe, I was also fortunate to have a large support structure. The enthusiasm of Dennis Altaian, who took over after Robin left for busier climes, was a constant source of encouragement and a major incentive. Sanjay Seth first asked the question, 'What is the point of this story?' It has driven me ever since and I hope I have done justice to it. Sanjay also read an early draft at short notice, Raj Pandey has always been a darling and they were both my pillars in Melbourne; their friendship is too cherished to narrate here. Boria Majumdar ignited many ideas, particularly the chapter on cricket, which was born after an engrossing long adda, and is now a partner in many crimes—academic and otherwise along with sharmishtha. He also read the draft at many stages but his real contributions are far too many to narrate. Others at La Trobe have been a pleasure to work with, to know and to chat endlessly with: Assa Doron, Maxine Loynd and Madeline Healey—all guru bhais and behens and wonderful comrades in Ph. D.-dom.

In the end there are four people, to even begin thanking whom is, frankly, ridiculous. The first three: my father, who has always been a guiding light and without whose encouragement I would never have embarked on this adventure; my mother, who has always been a source of great strength, and Nitin, who insists on being named here. No one has read more drafts of this book than my father and perhaps, because they know me, both he and mum always began every telephonic conversation with, 'When are you finishing?'

In the end, there is Nitika, who flew half-way around the world for this book, has heard a million oral expositions of it, edited it at every step and has always been the voice of reason. To even attempt tabulating her contributions is silly. For the record though, only her patience, her wisdom and her good sense could have seen me through this project. Television is a great delight but she remains my greatest.

Nalin Mehta May 2007

PROLOGUE

Satellites and the Promise of News

Satellite television news networks have never expanded as they have in India. In less than a decade, between I998 and 2006, India has experienced the rise of more than 50 24-hour satellite news channels, broadcasting news in II different languages (Figure P.I). They are a prominent part of a vibrant satellite television industry, comprising more than 300 channels, that has targeted Indian homes since the early I990s.IIn one form or the other, at least I06 of these broadcast daily news in I4 regional languages, and their emergence marks a sharp break with the past. They have arisen in a country where the state had monopolised broadcasting since independence, and as late as I99I, India had only one government-controlled television network. Until private satellite networks shattered the barriers of state control, television was meant only to be the voice of the Indian state, its daily Trojan horse into the living rooms of its citizens. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Doordarshan's daily news coverage. The new private channels, for the first time, brought with them the heady promise of 'independent' television news, as distinct from government propaganda. The nature of 'independence', of course, varies across networks but their very rise illustrates how rapidly the Indian state lost control over television. The existence of such a strong private satellite news industry appears even starker when compared with the fact that private radio networks in India are still banned from broadcasting news, which remains a monopoly of government radio.

These upheavals in the nature of Indian television have been accompanied by a simultaneous expansion in its reach and penetration. In I992,if you divided India's population of 846,388,ooo2 by the total number of television sets in the country,3 the number of people clustering around a set would have been a little over 26. By 2006, that ratio had come down substantially to just over I0people per television set, despite a substantial increase in the population.4 In a little over a decade, the total number of Indian television households tripled to reach an estimated II2million.5 It made India the world's third largest television market, just behind China and the United States,6 and more than 60per cent of these television sets are estimated to be connected to satellite dishes.7 It is numbers like these that have attracted global media corporations, with both India and China gradually turning into new focal points of the global communication industry.8

The numbers signify a much larger story. The rise of satellite television, and satellite news networks, has engendered a transformation in India's political culture, the nature of the state and expressions of Indian nationhood. Much like India's 'newspaper revolution'I0 that started in the I970s, and the 'cassette culture'II of the I980s, the availability of privately

Fig. P.l: Satellite News Channels in India9

Language

Channels that broadcast news

24-hour news networks

All

106

54

Hindi

25

19

English

15

14

Malayalam

9

4

Tamil

12

2

Telugu

10

4

Bengali

8

4

Punjabi

7

3

Kannada

7

1

Marathi

4

1

Assamese/Manipuri

2

-

Gujarati

3

1

Oriya

2

1

Urdu

1

-

Nepali

1

1

produced satellite television has meant that 'people discovered new ways to think about themselves and to participate in politics that would have been unthinkable a generation before.'I2 Live television is a powerful force. It differs significantly from traditional media because of its visual nature and its capacity to simultaneously capture and publicise 'reality'—or at least what seems like reality. Wallace Westfeldt, a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean in the I950s, aptly captured some of this magic of television when he argued that television coverage of the American civil rights disturbances in that period 'gave that story a color and attraction and emphasis that newspapers couldn't do. Even without commentary, a [television] shot of a big white man spitting and cursing at black children did more to open up the national intellect than my stories ever could.'I3 Police dogs let loose on black protesters looked like police dogs in newspaper and magazine photos, but on television, the dogs snarled.I4 Compounding the social potential of television, Indian networks have arisen in a dynamic multimedia environment, almost in tandem with new media like the internet and mobile technology. By marrying the continuous cycle of 24-hour rolling news with these personalised new technologies, India's 24-hour news channels provide a new avenue for politics and 'public' activity that is profoundly transformative.

Let me illustrate the meaning of Indian 24-hour news with a story that occupied two days of non-stop live coverage on Indian news channels in July 2006.It began on July 2Iwhen Prince, the five-year-old son of a farm labourer, fell into a narrow 55-foot pit being dug for a water borewell in Aldeharhi village, some I50km north of Delhi. Once, the missing son of a farm labourer would not have been important enough for reportage in anything other than a local daily. Indeed, in similar incidents in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Madhya Pradesh just a few months earlier, when little children fell into such construction pits, they died without more than a cursory mention in the national press.I5 In the case of Prince, however, producers at various national networks saw the promise of a good story and ratings.I6 A number of channels scrapped their regular programming to cover the rescue attempt live, except that there were simply no specialised rescue services in the area. When Prince became a television 'story', however, the event acquired a life of its own.

With local authorities unable to rescue Prince, Armyengineers were called in. It is from this point that live television pictures turned the story into a national soap opera. Television's focus meant that politicians could not keep away and had to be seen to be reacting. The prime minister's office intervened directly, with a promise to take 'full medical care' and a statement that it 'prays for the speedy rescue and good health of the young boy.'I7 To aid the Army, a special team of fire-fighters was airlifted from Mumbai on board an especially chartered Indian Air Force plane and by the morning of July 23,the chief minister of Haryana, senior members of his cabinet and the MP from Kurukshetra all reached the site to personally 'monitor' the rescue operation.I8 By this time, a CCTV camera, lowered into the pit, was broadcasting live pictures of Prince as he waited to be saved. He was transformed into a national cause as special prayer meetings began to be held all over the country, cutting across religious lines—at the Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai, at the Laxmi Narayan temple in Delhi, at the famous shrine in Puri, at the Kali Bari in Kolkata, at churches in Goa, at the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, even at a blind school in Allahabad. All of these featured prominently on television and news anchors actively sought to construct a national crusade, stressing on how the prayer meetings were only a reflection of 'national unity'.I9 Many networks asked viewers to SMS their support and they received thousands of SMS messages—which many displayed in a continuous scroll across the screen. By the time Prince was finally rescued, 50hours after he first fell into the ditch, the event had been broadcast live on many news channels for more than 24hours. Ecstatic messages from viewers filled television screens—one viewer compared him to an incarnation of Krishna, another gleefully announced that India was now 'ready to take on terrorism'.20 Even Parliament's monsoon session opened with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha registering prayers of support for the rescued Prince on behalf of the entire House.2I

The rescue of Prince exemplified the story of 24-hour news television. For television producers, such a story had 'emotional value' beyond the local: they sought to turn it into a national event and it became one. The continuous live coverage, the televised prayer meetings, the thousands of SMS messages, the involvement of the prime minister's office, the Army's top brass and the state's chief minister all linked up in a chain reaction that was first initiated by a television producer's decision to start broadcasting the story, instead of ignoring it like a local mishap. For instance, the Army's engineers might have been called anyway but this time they came with a supervising Major General. Influential sections of the political class and the state, from the prime minister downwards directly got involved in rescuing a poor villager's son and television actively sought to construct a united nation. Of course, the networks focused on the story to increase ratings and the fact that they ignored all else for two days raised serious questions:

Wasn't the coverage disproportionate to the event in this vast billion-plus nation where 25violent crimes take place every hour, 59housewives commit suicide every day, and where two rapes, four murders, I0 culpable homicides and one dowry death occur on an hourly basis? Wasn't this publicity lopsided? Didn't channels go over the top?22

The criticism is valid but it misses the larger point of thePrince story: 24-hour television news has brought a new and revolutionary theatre to the daily life of India. It is a theatre that quite literally never stops; one in which increasingly large numbers of citizens are not just the audience, but also find themselves 'on stage, part of, and thereby able to influence, a far larger political play.'23 It has made possible new ways of imagining identities, conducting politics and engaging with the state. It may not always be used for liberal or for 'right' purposes but it brings immense possibilities that simply did not exist even a generation before. This is the story that this book seeks to explain: the vast changes in Indian television, and India, over the past decade. Explaining how television, a medium that developed in the industrial West, was adapted to suit Indian conditions, the book focuses specifically on the emergence of satellite news channels.

Operating at the junction of politics, capitalism and globalisation, 24-hour news channels offer a unique entry point to understanding the contours of India's new satellite television industry and its implications for the state, politics and culture. Through the prism of news channels, the book seeks to answer critical questions about the relationship of television, globalisation and capitalism; the role of television channels in creating political identities; and what this means for India's liberal democracy. By 2006, more Indians were estimated to be watching satellite television than reading newspapers,24 and this book maps the rise of satellite television from the point of view of its producers. It sets out to answer why television is growing, who pays for it, who profits from it, who produces it, who controls it and what changes it brings. It argues that though news channels were driven by capitalist motives of profit generation, their efforts led to the creation of new visual publics—national, regional and local—that altered politics and forms of identity formation in significant ways. Live television news used new forms of technology to plug into existing social nodes of communication, introduced a new kind of publicness and initiated a social transformation.

Indian Television: Filling the Satellite Gap

Indian television's pace of change has been so fast that scholarship on the subject has failed to keep pace. Much of it predates the rise of satellite TV and almost all the major works on the subject have focused either on the period before the rise of satellite television or when it was still in its infancy. Much water has flown down the Ganga since Indian viewers first encountered the still 'illegal' images of CNN during the first Gulf War and satellite television looms like a black spot in the study of modern India, particularly when compared with the excellent accounts of state television that preceded it. Nowhere is the paucity of scholarship more apparent than in the fact that there has so far been no detailed published study of the rise of India's news networks and their social significance. This is the gap that this book aims to fill. It aims to be the first detailed account of their rise and social significance.

The historiography of Indian television can be divided into the pre- and post-satellite period. The story of the pre-satellite period is fairly simple: television was a cultural and political instrument of the state, simultaneously implicit in the creation of a consumerist middle class. Its various manifestations have found able chroniclers—from former broadcasters25 to critical scholars like Purnima Mankekar and Arvind Rajagopal. Mankekar's ethnographic and textual work, for example, sketched how the state attempted to use television to create a 'modern' nation and reinforce notions of the family and womanhood, while also underlining television's close linkages with the creation of a middle class.26 Similarly, long before the rise of the satellite networks, Rajagopal raised serious questions about the nature of Indian 'politics after television'. Titled as such, his insightful study of Hindu nationalism explicitly focused on the linkages between the media, the new consumerism and politics. For Rajagopal, the new media re-shaped the context in which politics was 'conceived, enacted and understood' and the aggressive political movement to fashion a Hindu public in the late I980s and early I990s could only be understood 'within the nexus of market reforms and the expansion of communications, rather than religious reaction as such.'27

All this, though, is quite literally, history. It informs and shapes the present but the story of the post-satellite era necessitates a fresh look. Rajagopal's authoritative account, for instance, chronicled the role of audio-visual media in the Bharatiya Janata Party's rise to prominence in the I990sbut its discussion of television ended before the emergence of a single satellite news network. There has been no detailed account of the interface of Indian politics and television since. Just as Indian television diffused into hundreds of channels, so has the scholarship. Individual accounts have focused on specific content-based issues—Melissa Butcher's analysis of the cultural impact of Star,28 Amrita Shah's focus on television fiction and middle class morality29 or Vamsee Juluri on youth cultures30—but there is no single authoritative text mapping the architecture and the larger social significance of the new television regime. They have all been valuable contributions to the study of Indian popular culture but few have really focused on satellite television's significance beyond its content—to the new connections, the new social relationships, and the new ways of engaging with the state and society that it has brought.

The only major study that attempted to paint the story of Indian satellite television on a wide canvass—in economic, political and social terms—is Sevanti Ninan's authoritative Through the Magic Window. An impressive survey of the transformative role of television in its early years, it was, however, written as early as I995 and long before the rise of round-the-clock news.3I The same applies to Christiane Brosius and Melissa Butcher's excellent edited collection on television and cultural change, which offered an early panorama of Indian television's many manifestations.32 Many new channels have emerged since then, programming genres have substantially changed and so has the politics of, and around, television. Indian broadcast law, for instance, has long been a barometer of the politics of satellite television. However, the last major study of it was published as far back as I997.33 That was before a single news channel had emerged in India and, as this book will show, their emergence led to substantial changes in media law which were at the heart of contentious battles over the nature of the Indian state, the limits of its control, and indeed, notions of Indian-ness. Similarly, William Page and David Crawley's Satellites Over South Asia sign-posted a roadmap of the region's changing television infrastructure and, while offering valuable nuggets of information, did not investigate any specific aspects of news broadcasting.34 It opened a window towards understanding what has been happening in India on the whole, but stopped well short of detailed analysis. Then there are economic accounts of the media, such as Vanita Kohli's The Indian Media Business. Its section on television treats it almost entirely as an economic entity, rather than a cultural one and certainly does not enquire into its political manifestations.35

Clearly, there is a satellite-size gap in the scholarship of Indian television. The medium has expanded so fast that key areas remain largely unexplored: news networks and their impact on politics and democracy; television and its role in augmenting notions of nationalism, particularly with reference to sport in general, and cricket in particular; and the global impact of Indian television. This book aims to bridge this gap in the study of modern India. It treats the genre of news channels as a microcosm of the satellite industry as a whole and, by studying their rise, seeks to answer crucial questions about how television came to India, what television is doing to it, and what India has done to television.

The story and impact of India's television encounter is told through seven chapters: the nature of the state's monopoly over television until the early I990s;the entry of global satellite television and how Indian capitalists negotiated the boundaries of state control to go from one to 300channels in less than a decade; the transformation of the Indian state, seen through the prism of broadcast law and the television economy; advertising and the burgeoning strength of Indian capitalism that is fuelling the rapid expansion of television; the close linkages between television and questions of national identity through a case study of cricket programming; and finally news television's impact on politics, through an analysis of the links between television programming and democratic culture; and a separate case study of the Gujarat riots and assembly election of 2002. Together, these chapters document the complex ways in which satellite television transformed India, while it was simultaneously being Indianised.

In the absence of published sources on news channels, I have had to build my own archive along the way and apart from the first chapter, which focuses on television before the emergence of satellites, this book is primarily based on three kinds of primary sources. The first is nearly 50interviews with television network owners, journalists, media managers, advertisers, cable operators and senior politicians—at the national, regional and local levels. The interviews were conducted between 2004and 2007at various places in India and overseas: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Pondicherry, Raipur, Shanghai and Melbourne. They reveal a great deal of previously unknown data about the nature of satellite television, and the many complexities inherent in its evolution. For instance, NDTV's Prannoy Roy recounts the panicky phone calls from the prime minister's office when he anchored the first private live bulletin on Doordarshan and the comic solution of a five-minute delay in the live telecast that subsequently allowed the bureaucrats to keep up the semblance of control. It was a seminal moment in Indian television and Roy's account sheds new light on the early story of rise of private television (Chapter 2). Similarly, the BJP's vice-president, Arun Jaitely, references his career as a BJP spokesperson to a decision by NDTV to invite him to its studios, in preference to other senior leaders, because he could answer questions in 'twenty seconds' (Chapter 6). Many of these interviews are quoted at length and they provide the flesh and blood of this book. Of course, sometimes people forget details—memories cloud, perceptions morph into fact. Therefore, many of the people that feature in this account have been interviewed more than once—some as many as five or six times—often, after cross-referencing their accounts with others. The second major primary source of this book is primary industry documentation, in the form of presentations shown to the author by television managers, company prospectuses and industry reports. This data provides details of the industry's economic structure and its larger significance for the changing nature of the Indian economy. The third major source is television content, mostly sourced from the archives of various channels. This book is not an ethnography. It does not engage in detailed expositions on the nature of content and its meaning, of and by itself. Where it studies content, it studies it in relation to the larger processes driving television, such as the relationship with advertising and ratings, or where it signifies deeper social changes, such as those in the nature of politics. Between them, these sources reveal a complex narrative of a television news industry and a nation-state that is in constant flux. The changes ebb and flow but the direction of change is unmistakable, with television serving as a catalyst.

Television, Publicness and Social Change

When television arrives in a society, it alters the societal matrix. For instance, writing of the social impact of television when it first arrived in Canada, Robin Jeffrey recounts:

Our habits changed. At first, before our family had a television, we started dropping in on friends at the starting times of popular programs. Then, when we had a television set, we went out much less and stayed up later at night. Sports, election nights and momentous events kept us around the set like thirsty animals around a waterhole.36

The exact nature of television's influence on societies has been debated ever since Marshall McLuhan argued that new technology itself was a 'revolutionizing agent',37 coining his now famous aphorism: 'The medium is the message'. Insisting that every new technology, by itself—from the wheel and the alphabet to the telegraph and television—had changed social relations and mental attitudes,38 McLuhan understood new media like television 'not just [as] mechanical gimmicks for creating illusions of the world', but as containing 'new languages and unique powers of expression.'39:

The new media are not ways of relating us to the old 'real' world; they are the real world and they reshape what remains of the old world at will... The effects of new media in our sensory lives are similar to the effects of new poetry. They change not our thoughts but the structure of the world.40

McLuhan's ideas were often not backed up with empirical research4I but they were a significant break from earlier works on critical social theory, stemming from the Frankfurt School, which largely saw the media as a 'mechanism of social control' to reproduce an unequal social order.42 McLuhan drew intellectually from the innovative ideas of another Canadian, Harold Innis, who, in his two major works, Empires and Communication and The Bias of Communications, essentially visualised human history as the history of communication technologies.43 Their ideas became the kernel for a large body of work on such themes, focusing especially on the ways in which electronic media have altered thinking patterns and social organisation in different ways.44 Joshua Meyrowitz, forinstance, argued that electronic media, particularly television, subverted the logic ofthe social order by blurring the boundaries between the public and private spheres, by bringing together previously different experiential worlds and by changing the 'situational geography' of social life. It created new groups of identities and socialisation, altered the distinction between childhood and adulthood and undermined traditional notions of hierarchy and authority.45 In short, it was at least partly implicit in many seemingly unrelated social upheavals like the civil rights movement, changes in family structure, challenges to the authority of professionals and so on. As Meyrowitz sums up, subsequent theorists of media and culture have taken different approaches and reached different conclusions, but when taken together their works reveal a fairly consistent image of the 'interaction of media and culture':

Broadly speaking, these theorists' work cohere into a shared image of three phases of civilization matched to three major forms of communicating: the move from traditional oral societies to modern print societies (via a transitional scribal phase), to an electronic global culture.46

It is in this context that John B. Thompson, in the early nineties, proposed his social theory of the media. Forcefully arguing that mass media, and television, have transformed the nature of publicness itself, Thompson shows how mass media create a sieve of 'mediated publicness' through which all public life now passes. This new publicness is de-spatialized, non-dialogical and received in settings spatially and temporally remote from the original context of production.47 Reception is often at odds with the intentions of its creators—the recipient's own assumptions and expectations regulate how they are interpreted and appropriated and the meaning of the message is fluid, taking different forms for different people.48

These approaches inform the first great question that this book addresses: the nature of social and political change brought about by Indian television. Chapter 6specifically outlines the broad trends underpinning the interface between television and politics, and their implications for Indian democracy. It argues that the emergence of television news networks is intimately connected with mechanisms of public discussion and interactive reasoning, and has enhanced and strengthened deliberative Indian democracy. It also identifies the social sources of news television and moves beyond the political economy equation to argue that the rise of Indian news television can only be understood in the context of a society with a strong argumentative tradition of public reasoning. Indian television thrives on programming genres that marry older argumentative traditions with new technology and notions of liberal democracy to create new hybrid forms that strengthen democratic culture. It then moves on to a genealogy of politics on satellite television that focuses on the specific ways in which the medium emerged as a new factor in the Indian political matrix in the mid-I990sand changed the daily practices of politics because of the 24-hour publicity it provided. Chapter 7 uses these arguments as a backdrop to analyse a specific instance where television changed the politics of public violence, the 2002Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat. It shows how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) effectively managed to mediate its political message to its constituency by linking the television coverage of the violence to larger questions of religion and region, even though the detail in that coverage was largely anti-BJP.

Chapters 2and 3refer to what the rise of news networks mean for the Indian state. Chapter 2, in particular, argues that far from being a simple techno-centric offshoot of the economic reform process that started in I99I,Indian satellite television grew because of a unique confluence of economic, political and technological factors. It sketches the complexity of responses that the medium drew from different organs of the state—some embraced it while others consistently opposed it. Chapter 3carries this argument further and specifically focuses on broadcast policy and its meanings. It argues that the control of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, that monopolised broadcasting since inception, has been reduced because immense changes in the political economy of India have overtaken it. Every minister of broadcasting since I99Ihas tried to assert otherwise but none very successfully. When the old command model of television was shaken up, the hitherto all-powerful, seemingly unitary state failed to evolve a coherent regulatory regime catering to the new realities for more than a decade. After an initial period of denial by the state, a series of loose and parallel systems of control emerged, often at cross-purposes with each other, and none very effective. This was true at least until mid-2007 and the new Broadcast Bill of 2007is an attempt to fill in the vast grey areas in the legal structures of broadcasting. India's encounter with private broadcasting offers an illuminating case study to understand the larger trajectory of changes that engulfed the Nehruvian state after it embarked on economic reform.

Chai in a Coke Bottle: Television, Transformation and Globalisation

The second major question that this book deals with is the connection between satellite television and the processes of globalisation. Chapter 2 shows that satellite television came to India as an agent of global capitalism, that Indian entrepreneurs were initially in subordinate positions, but that they gradually leveled the playing field and reversed the power equation. So much so that we are now seeing the beginning of a gradual reordering of global media flows with India transforming from a mere receiver to a major supplier. In global terms, Indian networks have so far served large diasporas around the world but they have recently started branching out into foreign languages as well. Both Zee TV and NDTV, for instance, have been involved in setting up channels in Bahasa Indonesia. Zee is now looking to branch out in local languages in Russia, Malaysia and Afghanistan. The point is that India appropriated satellite television, Indianised it.

Complex forms of globalisation are embedded within Indian television's evolution and Chapter 5specifically uses the example of cricket and sport programming to document the cultural implications of this Indianisation. Television has been Indianised because news channels put what might be termed global practices of television through an Indian lens, re-marrying them with reconstituted elements of what are seen as 'Indian' practices to create new hybrid genres of programming. Because private television came to India as a foreign entity, Indian producers in the early years largely followed Western formats, which served as a benchmark. As competition intensified, however, economic pressures turned news producers into mediators of what they understood to be an 'Indian' identity. They tapped into Indian oral traditions and traditional patterns of social communication that historians and sociologists have long documented and channeled them into television. Far from following Western models, news programming tapped into existing subaltern modes of communication and reproduced them on screen. The 'mediated' nature of the tele-visual medium means that these traditions are not transferred as is, but repackaged with the use of new interactive technologies in a form that resembles, but is still vastly different from, the original. Chapter 5uses cricket to illustrate what this means for notions of identity and Indian-ness.

Satellite television is one of the most obvious manifestations of what has come to be called globalisation. Its technological capabilities have been adapted in unforeseen ways but debates on globalisation, media and cultural impact have struggled to keep up with the pace of innovation. The central problem in cultural debates on globalisation has been the 'tension between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization.'49 But many of these debates revolve around the traditional notions of a dominant centre and dependent periphery and, though many scholars have argued in favour of more 'hybridized', complex and overlapping information flows,50 empirical work on how such processes work within the non-Western media has been thin. As Elizabeth Jacka and Stuart Cunningham sum up:

Most theorists of globalisation have tended to overemphasise the centrality of the US in the audiovisual industries and to be preoccupied with audience negotiation of the dominant US product. They have viewed cultural exchange through a peculiarly metropolitan prism.5I

This leads to a problem. In a different context, Meaghan Morris, for instance, argues that too often narratives of change recount 'a known history, something which has already happened elsewhere, and which is to be reproduced, mechanically or otherwise, with a local content.'52 In the Indian context, for instance, concerns of CNNisation/MTVisation still dominate the media discourse.53 The reality, though, is vastly different.

This book will show that Indian television is as much local as it is global. News channels have re-worked what they understand as Indian difference to build a national market but this process can only be understood in relation to, not in isolation from, global tendencies. It stresses that the complexities of modern mass media often defy neat categorisations of the local' and the 'global', locked in eternal combat with each other. Most nuanced cultural studies of globalisation stress that the local and the global are often two sides of the same coin.54 As William Mazarella notes:

By the end of the millennium, then, both marketers and anthropologists understood that 'the local' and 'the global' are not opposites; rather, they are mutually constitutive imaginary moments in every attempt to make sense of the world, whether for disciplinary, commercial, scholarly, or radical purposes.55

This is the broad approach taken in (just simplifying language ©) this book. The argument is that television came to India like an imported bottle of Coca Cola but it was refilled with Indianchai or, if you like, country liquor. What goes into the bottle is determined by economic, political and cultural considerations and can only be understood by studying television in relation to its wider local environment. Indian entrepreneurs adapted television's Coke bottle to Indian conditions and sometimes replaced it altogether with an earthen kulhar (cup), but neither the chai nor the kulhar can be understood without reference to the original bottle.

Fantastic.... Nalin has beautifully pieced together the real, untold story behind the soundbytes

ARNAB GOSWAMI Editor-in-Chief & Vice President,Times Now

Mehta explains a complex story of how Indian television, in the space of about 15 years, became the country's most dynamic medium and how the consequences of that change affect sport, politics and most aspects of daily life. This is a "don't miss" book for anyone following the transformation of India.ROBIN JEFFREY Director,Research School of Pcific & Asian Studies, Australin National University

More than fifty 24 -hour news networks, operating in eleven different languages, emerged in India between 1992 and 2006. This book traces the evolution of satellite television and how it effected major changes in political culture, the state, and expressions of Indian nationhood. Explaining how television was adapted to suit Indian conditions, the book focuses specifically on the emergence of satellite news channels. It shows how live television used new forms of technology to plug into existing modes of communication, which in turn led to the creation of a new visual language - national, regional and local.

The story of satellitetelevision is also the story of India's encounter with globalization. This meticulously researched and persuasively argued book tracks how the two have: changed the face of mass media and impacted the lives of millions of Indians.

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