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CSCS - Centre for Study of Culture & Society


TELEVISION AND NATIONAL CULTURE :

The volution of a complex televisual system in India in the last twenty years will be the broad focus of this project. It is proposed to study this brief but culturally significant history from a variety of angles. Thus we shall compare the early days of Doordarshan monopoly, development oriented entertainment etc., with the post-satellite boom era. We shall look at the economic questions involved (the sources of capital, the production systems, etc.) , the transformation in televisual content, the difference between indigenous and imported programming.

Another significant area of investigation will be the formation of relatively autonomous regional televisual systems focused around an influential channel (Sun, Asianet, Zee). The aim is to map the contemporary cultural field and the role of television within it: to what extent has television seized the initiative in nationally significant ideological questions? How does the necessarily global nature of televisual flow, the fact that television is the emblematic site of global consumer culture, affect the autonomy of the national televisual circuit?

The Indian televisual system is arguably one of the most complex in the world, with at least four distinct and interlinked levels of cultural production/distribution: .

a. The transnational satellite networks and channels

b. The state-run national network

c. Several privately owned regional satellite channels, and

d. Large and small-scale cable operations with their own transmission activities.

To further complicate the picture, we have many languages represented in these channels and programmes. Thus when we speak of a national culture, we refer, not to any cultural essence, but to the combined effectivity of these various systems and sub-systems, the similarities and differences in the discourses that they circulate, the variations, across regions, in audience integration into a televisual habitus, and other related phenomena.

Through an examination of press reports, government publications, information from private agencies, surveys and interviews with cable operators, textual analysis of programmes, and other methods, the project will try to throw light on questions relating to (1) policy and infrastructure, (2) sociology and economics of the circulation systems, (3) the content of television and (4) the audiences of television.

Over the last three years, material has been collected from a variety of sources and locations, which gives a preliminary idea of the complexity of the televisual system. In particular imvestigations into the intricacies of cable distribution operations in Bombay, Calcutta, Chennai and Bangalore have yielded results which indicate the need for further work. A look at the innovative programming ideas of regional channels has also shown that there is a need to develop new approaches to the study of television within a specific historico-political context. As the televisual field continues to undergo rapid changes, some of the questions need to be reformulated.

 

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