This day let's ponder over the impact television medium now has on our personal, familial, social and political life. Not going into the well known history of this audio visual medium, suffice to say that it has gradually changed our lives in a big way. It cut down our time for Radio, cinema and print media significantly. TV started making real impact in America and European countries in 1950s that continued almost unchallenged till middle of the first decade of the 21st century. The first Presidential debates in 1960 between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon marked the moment that the television had arrived. In December 1996 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21st November as World Television Day commemorating the date on which the first World Television Forum was held in 1996.
In India the impact came in early eighties through 9th Asian Games, introduction of colour TV, and then the serial saga through HUM LOG, Ramayan and Mahabharat. By mid nineties came the private television and the Doordarshan started losing the race both in entertainment segment of serials and the news segment. It soon became a mad race even among the private networks, each trying to beat the other through sensational contents and even by rigging the TRPs for a bigger pie in the advertisement revenue.
The cut throat race continues.
My personal feeling is that television has in this process made us passive consumers of its contents. It has even polarised the community on communal and political lines.There was a time when films united the country. Those made Hindi as the most spoken and understood language. In its early days, Television too performed that role through its films and film based programmes and live sports especially cricket.The satellite television has promoted the globalisation. It has given a big philip to cultural activities. Of course it has promoted consumerism alongside.It has also promoted democracy and human right throughout the world. The governments everywhere are answerable to their public on every incident of human rights violation now like never before.
In the last decade or so, television news seem to have become more popular than serials. Of 800 odd television channels in India, about half cater to news . Prime time is a big circus on most of the news channels. We remain passive consumers. Will television continue to play overwhelming or even dominant role in entertaining the masses and as educator and information provider?
I don't think so. In last about five years or so,a new technology has brought on the scene a new mass media called social media. It has already started impacting the television. Now I devote equal, if not more, time to social media than the television. The smartphone technology has made made television as just one of its many adjuncts. There is also smart television and OTT content , all available on smartphones. Television gave us what a channel thought the best for us. Of course , we could change channels but we could not always have the contents we specifically wanted. Google on smartphones has widened the area of our choice astronomically.
Social media has made every citizen a repoter who has a take on anything and everything. That makes social media a better two way communication medium. Its reach and audience is huge. Facebook has about 200 crore subscribers. If people only make a country, then Facebook is the biggest country of the world. Social media gives rise to communities and identities of big and small sizes that television and other mass media sought to rollover.This way social media makes us active and discreet consumers of contents. This is a major point social media scores over television.
These are my stray thoughts on this World Television Day. We have a galaxy of television professionals in our group. Will they enlighten us ? Waiting to hear.
( Writer is a senior journalist and based in Hisar)