In radio times we dreamt of a television era when all affairs public will be transparent and no one can hide anything from the eyes of cameras. When black and white televisions dawned, we thought there is too much grey area and everything will be captured in colour televisions. And finally the era of colour televisions reached India only to remind the Indians that it is not the camera that is distorting truth but the cameramen who have remained unchanged. From colour of television the focus is now shifting to colour of the TV channel in contemporary India. Each channel has a dominating colour reflecting the interests of its owners (or masters) and all that is aired get soaked in its colour. One thing is very clear in the current scenario – that you will never come to know the truth or even a fraction of it if you are watching only one channel regularly. The best example of this is the case of Keralites with about a dozen of Malayalam channels.
The air of God’s Own Country is a virtual battlefield of TV signals. Asianet, Surya, Kairali, Jeevan, Amrita, Kairali, India Vision etc., have already occupied their own spaces and more feasibility reports are in the pipeline. Though the main audience for all these channels reside within Kerala, a powerful segment is the NRKs (Non-Resident Keralites) who are spread all over the globe. Unlike any other state in India, the contribution and control on public affairs in Kerala by the non-residents is beyond anyone’s imagination. The colouring agents in the TV industry are the powerful NRKs who hold the levers of cashflow into the industry. If there is one part of India which will attract the colonisers again, it is undoubtedly Kerala. It is in this context that TV channels become significant and many are already showing their true colours.
Colour identification of the TV channels is a simple exercise for anyone watching the various TV channels regularly for news on current events. It becomes clear in no time that what we hear from the different channels are actually their opinions on the events and not facts per se. This becomes so very obvious if we analyse events from our own area, about which we have first hand information. Take the same incident and analyse the scrolling news line on any three channels. The colour of the channel becomes clear instantly. If you still have doubts, keep doing the same for a couple of days and analyse the prioritisation of news items in the daily bulletins. In any case, colour identification of any TV channel is not an expert’s work anymore. At one time it was difficult in the case of print media. But over the years, each and every established newspaper has exposed their true colours themselves. Barring outstanding personalities like Ramnath Goenka, all others have always lived upto the expectations of their colour bands. The simple fact that all established newspapers are stagnating on their subscriptions proves this point beyond any doubt. If at all their readerships grow, it is only in direct relation to the growth of their ‘own’ population.
The last two months have been a colourful period for the TV channels in Malayalam. If it was brutal butchering of Raman Kutty Maniappan in Afganistan that dominated the news in one channel, it was the ‘friendly’ custody by American forces of Sijo Jose in Iraq that stirred the conscience of the owners of another channel. The next one is still debating on the right and wrong of Naushad’s potential blinding in Saudi Arabia. Yet another one was concerned only about the electoral victory of its owners and the run upto an international congress on how to manage Kerala for the next 10 years without having been elected. Colour of the channel was splashed all over the programs and the committed viewers were reminded of their mental retardation again and again.
It is always interesting to watch the games channels play. Media gurus in each channel lay great stress on the Machiavellian dictum of repeating a lie hundred times to make the viewers believe in it. They seem to be convinced that people can be made to believe even a new revelation about suicide in the case of an established killing. The hundreds of stories in each TV channel about horrific incidents in the past are interesting to watch for the colour oozing out in each version. Ultimately everything depends on which side of the story they want to defend. If the channel colour matches with that of the killed, the killer and his people are painted dark. And if the colour matches that of the killer, the best we can expect is a story on how the evil circumstances forced the poor man to turn a killer or a tangential twist to the whole incident. Cut throat competition has seen the various TV channels passing their own final verdicts on the very day of incident in present day Kerala. The truth might come out only much late and then it is only a by-line in one of their afternoon news bulletins.
Another colourful pattern is in coining of news headlines by the colourful channels. As a typical example, whenever a road accident happens during Sabarimala season, the headlines in various TV channels would read “Devotees of Ayyappa meet with tragedy”, “Accident-prone Sabarimala season takes its toll”, “Careless drive to death” etc. Now everyone in Kerala can easily identify which headline would come in which TV channel. But for the curious outsiders the message is very clear. The news editor is not only paid to gather news but also to propagate it further down strictly in line with the owner’s agenda. All incidents, tragic or comic, become tools in this colourful game is the tragedy of Indian TV media of today.
Politicians, lawyers, editors and teachers were highly respected in a not so distant past in India. The first ones lost their shine in no time thanks to their deplorable performance in the arena of electoral politics. Lawyers lost their stature when they strayed away from their field and started misusing their oratorical skills in favour of the wicked. Teachers could carry on for some more time. But they too painted themselves black when some among them started asking for illegitimate favours from their own students. And now editors are maligning themselves by using colourful pens to script programs and news items to please their owners and not the public. Any media person who underestimates the intelligence of the majority mass is risking his reputation as a credible source of information. ‘Coloured’ editors will invariably end with a colourless career.
The colourful TV channels who claim record viewers are in a similar state. However committed a viewer is, his or her rationality will never allow eternal subjugation. The majority will ultimately see through the true colours of the channel owners. Colour television may still be liked because of the completeness of coverage compared to a black and white model. But all intelligent and rational viewers would definitely insist on seeing the news presented in black and white. Those who stick to their colours will have only a captive audience to view their sub-standard programs and the channel will bust in no time draining all the colours in store.