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Television in diversity: Case in point, India
When I'd started school in the late 90s, my family had a small, boxy, black and white television set and every time a notorious little sparrow sat on the antenna for an afternoon siesta, the screen back in the living room went berserk.

On weekends when I watch late-night TV, I often reminisce about the bygone, simpler days when Indian television, then entirely a state-run division had managed to captivate me and prepped me up for the magic of audio-visuals.

Terrestrial television services in India officially launched National telecasts in the year 1982 and soon after televised series of Indian epics were released with phenomenal fanfare. Today the film and television industry grosses multi-crores annually and airs the choicest selection of television programs for a 277 million strong audience. This figure includes viewership with access to cable/satellite television and Digitized Television (DTH subscribers). Back in the days DD Metro would broadcast for only a select few metro cities and ran even fewer regional language programs. But now, as we speak, Indian television is telecasting programs in 11 regional languages in addition to Hindi and English.

A statistical survey finds that an average literate Indian youth spends about 98 minutes daily in front of the TV set. Given the kind of heady command the television exerts over the multi-linguistic societal fabric of the country, some recent reports become absolutely crucial to assess the future of television. As part of the Modi government's concerted efforts to make a 'world leader' out of Hindi, the Prime Minister himself announced very recently that the government was inclined for Hindi to be made into the official tongue of the country.

Now India is perhaps the only multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-linguistic democracy aside of the cumulative West. The linguistic reorganization of the federated states was effectuated with Sardar Patel's promise to preserve the culturally distinct populace and in harmony to that effect.

History books since elementary school have been systematically glorifying 'Unity in Diversity' a very popular phrase and a reason to take pride in a great union of states. It is true that Hindi is the most widely used of the 22 languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. However, pushing for one language as an identifier for a country like India, is equivalent to choosing between the vital organs of one's own anatomy.

India has several competent scripts, something that is part of the country's linguistic reality and has also historically spurred rivalry. I fear that if the government indeed decides to go ahead with its proposal, the sub-continent might just be confronted with the horrific replay of the '71 Bengali Language Movement' this time at home.

Coming back to the question of television, this directive if implemented can directly impact regional language viewership. Regional films and television is actually a great way of keeping an ancient script with thousands of years of history from dying and also enriching the shared heritage of the country. Regional small screen industries in addition to motion pictures have contributed a lot to the ethos of linguistic minorities especially where literature hasn't been accessible.

Regional language TV has a huge audience and a wide variety of shows that are not only indicative of masterful art but also find empathy with various sections of viewers. Albeit the content is sometimes despicably dated and lacks the pan-Indian flavor or treatment, thereby attracting criticism from the section of the audience that is also actively pursuing national and world television.

The reception from the youth is particularly upsetting. I've also been witness to outrageous response from peers when I've revealed that I have willingly sat through several episodes of regional drama series and actually thoroughly enjoyed them. In retrospect, I'm reminded of the 1988 video compiled right after TV became a resident member of every Indian family and turned into a Doordarshan anthem. It echoed my exact sentiments in "Mile sur mera tumhara toh sur baney humara…."

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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