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Published:August 4th, 2009 10:18 EST
The Indian TV Landscape

The Indian TV Landscape

By Devinder Sharma

The Indian TV landscape is perhaps one of the largest in the world with as many as 250 channels from good to poor to downright hideous. Twenty years ago when cable and DTH TV broadcasting had not been invented one TV transmission tower was set up daily for a year to cover the entire country. Today viewers have the choice of ten DTH services plus innumerable cable TV providers.  

The source of their inspiration is Bollywood in some form or the other, otherwise how can you explain major English language news channels either have space for Bollywood news or special programs on it or never fail to mention something about it or use Bollywood icons in their programming. Thus the relationship is dependent and personalities flitting across or being influenced by the other.

Whenever I surf the TV channels during prime time, I am assailed by either dancing or singing competitions. I am sure if a traveler from another planet saw our programming he or she will come to the conclusion that Indians either dance or sing and unfortunately I do neither.  

For the last three years country has been obsessed with reality shows and for the same subject or entertainment or a format half a dozen channels are competing. There are reality shows covering every conceivable human activity. Many are copies from other parts of the world and few original. Realty shows are di rigueur for quality TV channels.

While the Indian cinema took a long time to treat skin exposure creatively the Indian TV has made the grade very quickly. TV producers and costume designers use ingenious ways to expose and the result is that TV channels and cinema is becoming overtly exhibitionist and the audience seems to love it. I conclude that because exhibitionism is out there for anyone to see. As opposed to this there are not less than 25 channels promoting religion and spirituality and rather popular.

The Indian society has been straight jacketed for the past two hundred years and anything sexual or sex related hidden and obscured. Even today we are debating for the last two years whether school children should have a brief course on sex education and at the moment the whole country is watching a super charged debate whether the criminal code for homosexuality be removed from the law books. It sounds contradictory and outlandish for a society that gave the world the Kama Sutra the oldest and largest selling sex manual and available in almost all languages.

As an outsider gets to know India you are stuck with the hard to explain contradictions in every facet in the life of this nation. From my travels I have learnt to understand the mood of a nation from the advertisements that appear on the TV. You should see the advertisements on our TV to understand the hopes, fears, desires and aspirations of the masses.