Tv an Idiot Box

Television nicknamed by the Americans as ‘idiot box’; is one of the most revolutionary inventions of the twentieth century. Its vast potentialities as a powerful medium of mass communication cannot be underestimated. It is, indeed, the last world in entertain­ment and enlightenment. It can enlighten our illiterate and ignorant masses; it can widen their mental horizon and help them to rise above communalism, racialism, regionalism etc; it can promote inter­national understanding; and it can generate a healthy climate for peaceful co-existence.
But in the hands of incompetent people, it can damage public morals, it can breed religious fanaticism; and it can vitiate international atmosphere and even precipitate a war. In a country like India wherein a very large number of people do not know how to read, a visual medium like television has unlimi­ted possibilities. Yet in the development of telecasting, India has lagged far behind many other countries including some which are otherwise much less developed. According to statistics released by UNESCO in 1970, the number of television sets per 100 inhabitants in India that year was only 0. 2 as compared to 0. 2 in Congo and 26. 4 in the Federal Republic of Germany. Television had been devised by John Legie Baird, a Scottish inventor, in 1928. Thereafter, its development in the technologically advanced countries of the west was rapid and very quick progress was registered in evolving sophisticated techniques which made multi-channel color television a possibility. The launching of com­munication satellites in the space-age has given further fillip to television, investing it with a truly international character.
Now it transcends international boundaries. It has enabled people in one corner of the globe to see with their own eyes events happening in another remote corner, making the world appear much smaller than it is. It was only in 1959 that the first experimental television station in the country was setup in Delhi with the co-operation of UNESCO and a private firm. The manufacture of TV sets stated seven years later, after the Central Engineering and Electronic Research. Institute had developed indigenous technology for the industry.

In 1972, it was estimated that there were 20,000 TV sets in the country out of which 15,000 were in Delhi house holds. That India was on the brink of a television explosion was made clear, by a survey conducted by the Department of Atomic Energy which pointed out that the demand for TV sets was likely to exceed three lakhs by 1973. Today there are about 160 TV stations all over India and there are at least 2 lakhs TV sets in Delhi alone. Look­ing to India’s requirements, it is by on means an ambitious pro­gramme. Translated into practice, it can fill an immensely useful purpose.
It was can serve as an educational device and provide the missing link between the administration and the people, giving the latter a greater sense of involvement in the task of building a new India. Handled with imagination, it can be used for promoting national aims like population control, Rational integration etc. But in inept hands, it can be a formidable instrument for mischief. And that raises a number of questions: How and by whom should tele­vision be controlled? What do we mean by imaginative handling? How best can ii be made a medium of mass instruction?
What should be the proportion of entertainment and instruction in television programmes? etc. There are several ways in which the responsibility for running a national television service in India can be apportioned. We have complete state control of ‘Doordarshan’ as exists in the case of the All India Radio. There is something to be said for that. In moving towards the goals it has set for itself, a developing country like India needs a greater amount of national discipline, even regiment­ation, than could be countenanced in an economically well-deve­loped democracy.
But then State ownership tends to blunt the edge of creativity and exposes the government to the charge of placing restraints on freedom of expression by monopolizing another powerful mass-medium. Two of the basic objectives of the television are obviously to entertain people and to promote their social awareness. But what are the other social objectives to be achieved? Very high on this list should be the education of our ill-informed farmers. Television can play a very significant role in enlightening them about the latest technical devices of agricultures the utility of various kinds of ferti­lizers and pesticides, or any other ethods of raising agriculture pro­ductivity. It can also pull them out of their superstitious world and modernize their thinking Secondly, television can be used to disse­minate the message of family planning. No other medium can reach such a large section of our society and communicate the message so effectively as television. Thirdly, television can be used to promote national integration. It can expose viewers to carefully designed programmes from various regions and emphasize on their minds the basic cultural unity, of India.
Finally, television can be of immense use in educating students at schools and in the universities. In scientific education, in particular, good television programmes can easily make up for a bad teacher or an ill-equipped laboratory. Problems of technology and administration apart, the success of instructional televisions in India will depend in the ultimate analysis on the presentation, content and range of the programmes it brings into view, the extent to which the producers are successful in combining instruction with entertainment and the rapport they can establish with their audience.
Considering that TV in India is yet in the primitive stage, we have no great tradition of professi­onalism in the field, Television is neither a glorified version of the radio, nor a miniaturized film-show. It can flourish only if its distinct individuality is recognized and allowed to develop in its own way. The general standard of the programmes being telecast from our existing centres has gradually improved during the past few years. Rural folks stand substantially benefited from their exposu­re to television.
Educational programmes are more imaginatively produced and comprehend an interesting variety. News presenta­tion is now quite interesting though there is still considerable scope for improvement in this sphere; Sunday pictures are no longer drab. The decision to hold the premier shows of award winning movies on television has warmed the hearts of even the staunch critics of ‘Doordarshan. ‘ But what has revolutionized the entire television world is the advent of sponsored serials.
Programmes like ‘HumLog’, ‘Buaiyad’, ‘Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi’, ‘Rajni’ have be­come household words. ‘Ramayana’ broke all records of achieve­ments and all barriers of caste and creed. Viewers have taken to flies to honey. They heatedly discuss the last night, episodes and them like eagerly await the ones to follow. While these serials have undoubtedly raised the standard of television programmes in general, not all of them are commendable. Some of them appear to be mediocre stuff hurriedly produced in imitation of formula films.
If cheap comedy, insipid romance, noisy, rhythm less music, blatant sex display and bloodcurdling violence—the hallmarks of an average Indian movie—capture the television serials also, it will do irreparable damage to social climate. It is heartening that some good directors like B. R. Chopra and Shy am Bengal have realized the potentialities of the medium and decided to produce meaningful serials. With the progress of the television age in India, the visual image is bound to overshadow the spoken and the printed word.
The immense potentialities of the new medium can be exploited 6aly if its functioning is made mass oriented and it is not allowed to become another means of vulgar display of opulence. We have to make sure that for all the public funds invested in it, we get adequate social returns in accelerating our development effort, usefully augmenting educational facilities, familiarizing the farmer with improved agricultural techniques, and helping the people in general to rescue themselves from ignorance and disease.

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