TV and globalization in India: An overview

Anuradha  Deb
Key words: TV region, New Global  Order, Participatory Democracy, Global alliances

 Introduction to TV and Globalization

In  India TV  is  still  enormously  significant. The  overwhelming  growth  of  digital  media  or to  be  more  specific,  social  media  still  cannot  drown  the  hunger  for  melodrama  flashed through  the Indian  tv sets every day and night.  According  to  the  KPMG  reports, the industry growth size is estimated  to  be  474.8  million  INR  in  the  year  2014  and  is  expected  to grow  to  631.2  million INR  by  2016. The  Advertising  revenue   generated  by  Indian  television  in  the  year  2014  consisted  of  37  percent  with  a  growth  rate  of  14.2  percent  from 2013. Television  viewing  now  continues  to  be   the  dominant  activity  for  the  majority  of  the  population  not  only  in India  but  all  over  the  world,  with  statistics  suggesting  that  each individual  in  the  UK  consumes  tv  programs  to  roughly  three  hours  a  day  and  in  US  it  is  estimated  to  be  somewhere  close  to  6  hours  a  day  a  tv  set  is  likely  to  be  kept  on (Macionis  and  Plummer  1998). In  India  tv  viewership  is  easily  2  hours  a  day  (FICCI-KPMG).  Between   1995  and  2003  there  was  a  50 percent  rise  in  TV  ownership  in  India, 33  percent  in  China  and  Indonesia,  25  percent  in  Thailand  and  Malaysia. As  whole,  Asia is  expected  to  increase  its  TV  ownership  to  500  million  households  and  more,  making  the region  three  times  as  large  a  tv  region  as  Europe. China  with  its  huge  population  as  well holds  the  potential  to  be  the  most  lucrative  single  nation  for  television  advertisers  with  as  many  as  900 million  tv  viewers  even  during  the  year  1995. (Balnaves 2001).
Almost  30  years  ago  when  the  Asian  Games  was  organized  in  New  Delhi,  the  capital city  of  India  that  the  country  stepped  into  the  world  of  Television  as  a  mass  medium  for  entertainment.  Though  television  existed  before  that,  but  it  was  primarily  used  as  a tool  for  education  specifically  in  the  agriculture  sector. The  rural  areas  saw  the  tv sets  and  stations  set  up  with  the  help  of  various  international  charitable  foundations  and  grants  from  developed  countries  to  educate  Indian  farmers  about  the  latest  methods  of farming  technology  for  yielding  crop  and  managing  livestock.  Even  though  it  might  seem to  be  a  late  entry  for  India,  it  did  not  take  much  time  for  the  industry  to  zoom  into  the market  as  a  throbbing  industry.  Further,  with  the  development  of  home  grown programming  and  the  tremendous  support  from  the  sister  industry  which  is  the  movie industry  (popularly  called  as  the  Bollywood)  the  tv  industry  gained  a  strong  footing  over the  last  15  years  so  much  so  that  it  quickly  moved  beyond  its  traditional  boundaries  and began  collaborating  across  nations  all  over  the  world.  As  programming  content  evolved, doors  were  opened  for  partnerships,  talent  ventures  and  creativity  from  across  countries began  to  be  visible  in  the  Indian  small  screens. Indian  TV  became  global  in  its  true  sense  in  the  mid  1990s  by  penetrating  and  emulating  the  best  of  the  practices  from  the US  to  Europe  and  Japan  when  newer  genre  emerged,  number  of  channels  increased  to around  700  as  on  date  and  news  channels  proliferated  like  never  before  as  the  skies  were  opened  for  channels  like  CNN,  Aljazeera  or  BBC,  regional  language  channels boomed  even  though  Hindi  happened  to  be  the  official  national  language of  the  country.  Reality  TV format  with  its  TRP  success  has  been  a  classic  case  of  merging the  local  with  global. Therefore  today  just  like  any  other  medium  TV  has  the  overarching  edge  of  globalizing the  Indian  mass  as  a  learned  member  of  the “global village”.
Being  perceived  as  having  an  impact  beyond  the  experience  of  viewing,  tv  is  often blamed  by  critics  for  encouraging  violence  and  frivolity  and  for  lowering  educational standards  in  India.  At  the  same  time  it  has  been  lauded  for  raising  political consciousness on  issues  as  diverse  as  it  can  get.  Academics  of  various  schools  have  argued  that  it  has helped  people  in  India  to  become  aware  of  nationalities,  genders  and  even  the  human race - or,  conversely,  that  it  has  dulled  the  sensibilities  of  every  human  who  comes within  its  orbit. What  is  apparent  is  that  television  as  a  bombardment  of  images  and programs,  as  a  technology  and  as  a  world- wide  industry,  touches  social  life  in  profound ways  especially  in  this  country  because  of  its  vast  range  of  recreational  demands  just  as the  television  has  contributed  in  many  ways  to  transform  the  cultural  landscape  all  over the  world.  The  society  earlier  took  time  to  experience  any  form  of  dramatic  social change,  however  with  the  emergence  of  media  and  television  in  particular  the  unleashing of  social,  economic  and  political  changes  helped  in  promoting  the  global  interdependence. Initially  a  bit  unsettling  for  the  Indian audience,  but  over  some  time  the  ‘localization’ made  itself  relevant.  According  to  post  modern  theorist, Giddens  (1990)  globalization  is one  of  the  definitive  qualities  of  post  modernity,  or  what  emphasizes  as  ‘late modernity’ and  constituting  a  new  ‘global order’. Sklair  points  out  that  social  developments  must  be transnational,  recognizing  that  social,  economic  and  political  processes  now  operate  across national  boundaries,  and  that  ‘power’  flows  and  operates  in  increasingly  complex ways (Sklair,1991).  Media  studies  have  termed  such  system  of  globalization  as  Americanization and at times,  Cultural imperialism. Giddens   means  to  call it  a  process  of  shrinkage  of space  with  different   conceptions  of   ‘local’  and  ‘distant’,  where  social  relations  are increasingly  shaped  by  abstract,  global  processes  rather  just  local  circumstances. What  is convincing  is  that  tv media  inevitably  led  the  transnational  movement  which  grew  and spread  rapidly  by  virtue  of  new  technologies  and  Indian  tv  took  on  the  leadership  in  its  own  unique  way.

Global preferences

As  television  industry  in  India  gradually  shifted  to  the  private  ownership  domain  from  the  Government  control,  motivated  by  profit  and  largely  funded  by  advertisers,  it  tended to  be  even  more  popular. A  kind  of  ‘synergy’  became  more  distinctive  in  its  global appeal.  The  decade  of  1990s  witnessed  some  of  the  most  sweeping  transformation  in  the broadcasting  and  cable  television  in  Asia. DBST  (Direct  Broadcast  Satellite  Television) started  in  1991  and  opened  the  flood  gates  to  International  channels  like  CNN,  HBO, MTV  and  many  more.  These  foreign  tv  content  were  attracted  to  a  market  that  had  a large  English  speaking  population  and  a  substantial  middle  class  that  was  expected  to rise up  the  social classes with  more  liberal outlook  and certainly possessed that disposable income to  try  and  test  the fun  that  globalization could  bring  in.  In  India  it  paved  the  way  for  a  tough  competition  to  be  economically  viable  for such  global  channels,  so  to  speak.  The  first  mover  advantage  of  these  international  channels  did  not  really  benefit  them always  in  the  local  markets  in  the  initial  days.  Perhaps  due  to  its  colonial  past  the  Indian  content productions  of  the  existing  Tv  channels  had  to  do  with  keeping  alive  the  feeling  of nationalism  and   preserving  its  diverse  cultural  heritage. Myths  and  epics  which  are  typical  to Indian  traditions  and  mindset  were  produced  and  telecast  which  became  hugely  popular. Other  than  those  literary  adaptations  of  heroic  efforts  towards  the  country  valorizing  the anti-colonial,  post  colonial sentiments,  the plots  and  stories  depicted  a  complex  interplay between  religious  beliefs  and  practices  with  the  secular  vocabularies  of  the  public.  Based on  the  development  realist  aesthetic,  an  idea  espoused  by  Hardinge (1934)  a  colonial bureaucrat  who  insisted  that  the  Indian ‘peasant  needs  daily  shorts  of  a  homely  nature  upon rudiments  of  hygiene,  sanitation,  child welfare,  improved  agricultural  methods  and marketing,  and  similar  helpful  subjects  flavored  with  entertainment’.  Therefore  in  the 1970s,  there  was  this  one  year  Satellite  Instructional  Television  Experiment (SITE)  and  the  Kheda  rural  project  in  conjunction  with  the  technocratic - bureaucratic  elite  along  with the  support  of  UNESCO,  and  a  satellite  borrowed  from  the  US,  such  programs  were initiated.  These  were  encouraged  as  a  ‘participatory democracy’  system  in  order  to  bring in  a  shift  in  the  deeply  entrenched  feudal,  caste  and  class  relations  in  the  rural  India which  accounts  for  almost  70 percent  of  the  population.  The upheavals  of  globalizations were  not  very  far  away.  TV  media  went  to  become  privatized  and  growing  control  by the  corporate   paved  the  way  for  entertainment  to  be  expanded  which  soon  morphed  into an  infotainment  mode  with  the  advent  of  sponsored  News  coming  in  from  all  over  the world.  Communication studies  demonstrate  that  audiences’  prefer  national  over international  products.  Straubhaar (1991)  argues  that  ‘cultural proximity’  of  media products increases  their  appeal.  An  estimation  of  top  twenty  programs  in  Asian  countries  showed  that between  seventy  five  percent  and  fifty percent were  locally  produced .  Audience  in  Hong kong,   Taiwan,  Indonesia,  Malaysia  and  India  show  a  preference  towards  domestic  content  rather  than  foreign  programs (Chadha and Kavoori,2000).  Understandably,  the  media  corporations’  desire  to  reap  the  benefits  of  scale  of  business  had  been  in  conflict with  the  needs  of  the  audience  who  valued  entertainment  which  is  culturally  proximate. Soon  it  became  clear  that  in  order  to  develop  an  audience,  these  channels  that  were  open  to  venture  offshore  had  to  tailor  out  the  programs  much  more  innovatively. Strategic alliance  of  the  global  therefore  had  to  be  ironed  out  by  mapping  the  behavioral  factors of  the  sides,  the  local  and  the  global.  India  saw  an upsurge  of  such  alliances  90s onward.  Over the  last  two  decades  and  more  there  has  been  an  increase  in  such  alliances  which  experts  agreeably see  as  effects  of  globalization.  Strategic  positioning  theory  states  that  alliances  are  motivated  by  the  determination  to  shape  competition  and  consolidate  the  company’s market  position.  Different  strategic  motives  have  been  offered  as  explanations  for  alliance formation.  These  include  risk  sharing  and  market  dominance , conforming  to  a  host  of  Government  policy  and  developing  vertical  linkages  that  lead  to competitive  advantage  (Contractor and Lorange, 1988).  One  of  the  major  challenges  faced by  the  international  channels  amidst  global  positioning  was  effective  distribution.  In Asia, from  the  1990s  penetration  of  satellite  dishes  did  not  show  any  significant  rise  primarily due  to  the  cost  of  the  dishes  and  government  regulations. (Barnard 1998)  News channels had  to  deal  with  the  cable  operators  to  gain  an  entry  to  make  way  for  its  potential audience.  The  cable  operators  became  the  gate  keepers  to  the  audience  of  Asia.
Media  scholars  definitely  have  raised  concerns  over  the  loss  in  diversity  in  the  Indian audience  as  media  conglomerates  carve  out  their  market  share  through  mergers  and acquisitions  which  are  an  inevitable  result  of  globalization.

Regulation journey from being local to global:

The  process  of  globalization  are  open  to  regulation  by  individual  nations,  rather  than being  an  autonomous  and  unstoppable  process  and  global  forces  that  are  regulated  by contracts  and  by  international  and  national  laws.  As  opposed  to  the  consumer  goods  or commodity  industry,  tv  channels  and  its  content  provide  a  platform  for  cultural  expression which  reflect  the  social,  economic  and  political  identities  of  the  people.  Hence  regulatory issues  assumed  a  significant  role  in  determining  how  far  and  how  much  of  media exposure  is  to  be  given  to  the  Indian  audience  in  the  name  of  globalization.  Common threats  that  were  perceived  to  be  were  that  of  “international  market  pressure” and “safeguarding  local  ethos”.
The  Broadcasting  Bill  of  India  (1997)  has  drawn  out  features  which  have  restrictions  to disqualify  licenses  among  others  are  a) An  individual  who  is  not  an  Indian  national  b) Companies  not  incorporated  in  India c)  Companies   incorporated  in  India  but  with – Foreign  equity  in  case  of  terrestrial  broadcasting  services,  foreign  equity  exceeding  forty nine percent   in  case  of  other  services  not  mentioned ,  d)  management  control  not  with  Indian  share holders.
In  light  of  the  above,  it  is  imperative  to  note  that  a  large  number  of  satellite  television channels / programs  have  been  beaming  through  the  Indian  skies. These  foreign  entities and  their  programs  are  uplinked  from  outside  the  country  without  any  regulation  through the  law  of  the  land. At  the  same  time,  quite  ironically however, Indian  entrepreneurs  and other  Indian  companies  are  not  permitted  to  own  a  radio  or  tv  stations  for  various regulatory  reasons.
Such  is  the  chaotic  nature  of  Indian media  and  globalization  which  shifts  away  from  the unidirectional  approach  of  one  world  order  that  any  medium  of  communication  aims for.  Even  though  with  a  capacity  to  communicate  homogenous  media  products  with  a prime  concern  for  profit,  there  is  genuinely  an  analytical  problem  prevalent  when  we think  of  globalizing  tendencies  in  media, which  is  another  subject  of   study   and  a  serious concern  of  post  modernity.

Notes & References:

  • Macionis and  Plummer  1998, Television Studies: Key Concepts
  • FICCI KPMG Report 2014
  • Balnaves M 2001, Television Audience Across the world: Deconstructing the Ratings Machine by Bourdon & Meadal, Chapter-2
  • Giddens A ,1990, The consequences of Modernity
  • Sklair L,1991, Transnational Capitalist Class
  • Straubhaar (1991), Beyond Media Imperialism: Asymmetrical Interdependence and cultural proximity
  • Chadha and Kavoori (2000), Media, Culture & Society
  • Contractor FJ and Lorange P, 1988, Cooperative strategies in International Business
  • Barnard M, 1998, Art, Design and Visual Culture: An introduction
  • Asian Journal of Communication, Routledge, Vol.14,March 2004, pp 38-55
  • Channeling Cultures, Television Studies from India