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12 April 2007

Content as king

It puzzles me why our small screen programmes are not breaking out in a bigger way out of established patterns and innovating more. TV watching is not healthy. But bad tv makes no one healthy, wealthy nor wise.

Considering that we have so many channels, software house, content developers and technology experts who supply to the world, especially in the area of animation, special effects and programming.

In the era of government controlled programming and Doordarshan, Surabhi the cultural programme by Siddharth Kak, for instance was a show that stood out and was a novel attempt. Even Amchi Mati Amchi Manse, a marathi programme for farmers seems educational and useful now in retrospect. Today with greater freedom, flexibility and access to resources, there seems to be stagnation. Every channel and segment sounds and looks like the next one. Surf between Indian channels, specially travel and cookery shows all follow the same format and one looks, sounds and dishes out content pretty much like another even on various regional language channels. If not for the clothes and sets, they may as well have been dubbed, like advertisements. For a while, among travel shows, Deepti Bhatnagar's Yatra was something a little different.

Compared to their counterparts on international channels, the travel and cookery segments are dull and dreary. News and talk shows don't set any new benchmarks either. In humour- it is as if we are still testing the waters and shooting in the dark. Some hits, Some misses. The saas-bahu serials are losing their novelty sheen and global counterparts at best inspire Nach Baliye, KBC and other top rated segments. I have no issue with that - without violating copyright issues and with proper credits, it is better to have a good copy than a bad original! But new formats, novel approaches and creating superior quality of content is required. For instance we have no show that caters to the decorating and home improvement segment; children and teenager themes (remember how big a hit REMIX on star one was?); women oriented themes; no good crime programme. Zilch. Or in drama, say something like Judging Amy.

I miss Judging Amy - with it’s threads of social work, justice system,three generations of women and mother-daughter relationship which is what actually got me thinking on this topic. If only we are willing to experiment and take the plunge. With a little effort, there is so much inspiration around here in India to create new and novel small screen program software for Indian audiences. Both radio, which is making a huge comeback and TV, which has tremendous hold, is such a powerful medium of change, especially in a country where literacy is not high. Community radios are also emerging as a knowledge sharing tool for development.

What better way to make the journey to a new India more enjoyable?

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