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Privatize or Shut down Akashvani and Doordharsan or ... (Indian Radio and Television)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2014 (ID. 2014-05-01)
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Indian Constitution lists "broadcasting" under the Union List; that means decisions regarding television and radio broadcasting, cable-casting and satellite-casting are made by the Indian Union (central) government and not by state governments. Indian Government decided not to grant permission to Tamil Nadu State Government to operate the cable television distribution system  "Arasu Cable Television" in competition with private cable television distribution systems. As a political cover, the Indian government cited the recommendation of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) not to allow state or central government to enter into the business of broadcasting and or distribution of TV channels (The Hindu newspaper- December 29, 2012). We want to point out that top decision makers of TRAI and such other authorities are selected and appointed by the Indian central government and it can always appoint people who hold its own views.

We also want to point out that the most powerful medium of broadcasting in India, namely, the over-the-air broadcasting of television (as opposed to cable or satellite television) is run by Doordarshan. Doordharshan is the largest broadcasting organization in India in terms of studio and transmitter infrastructure. DD National of Doordharsan is the top channel in India in terms of absolute viewership. Dhoordharshan is under Indian central government control. 

We do not accept the Indian government argument that Doordarshan is independently run. We do know that at least some major decisions are made by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). In 1985, Indian Minister for Information and Broadcasting V. N. Gadgil said that his ministry was doing everything possible to spread Hindi throughout the country. The decision here is made by the Indian government to further its own language policy of thrusting Hindi unto non-Hindi peoples.

In addition to promoting Hindi, Doordharshan and Akashvani (All India Radio) also promote Sanskrit, which many Hindi speakers consider as the mother of Hindi. There was a 15 minutes radio news bulletin in Sanskrit everyday in Akashvani (All India Radio). From 2002 onwards, Doordarshan broadcasts a five-minute television news bulletin in Sanskrit daily on the national channel (The Hindu newspaper - August 22, 2002).

What is the purpose of broadcasting a Sanskrit news bulletin nationally when no language other than English and Hindi has national news broadcasts? Why waste 15 minutes of radio time or 5 minutes of television (TV) time nationally to broadcast in Sanskrit known to less than 500,000 people (1991 Census) out of some one billion people of India? No national broadcast in Bengali that is understood by 70,000,000 or so people, no national broadcast in Telugu that is also understood by about 70,000,000 people. Then why in Sanskrit? Because Indian government that is dominated by Hindi politicians want to promote Sanskrit.

Not only Sanskrit is propagated within India but it is also broadcast all over the world. DD India is an Indian satellite television channel run by Doordharsan for Indians living abroad. This channel carries news bulletins in Sanskrit. How many Indians living abroad watch Sanskrit news?

Domination of Hindi in Doordharshan (TV) and Akashvani (radio), both under the control of the Indian government, is well known. In the preceding paragraphs, I gave in some detail how Indian government promotes Sanskrit through radio and television. This shows how one language and its mother language are promoted in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual country. This is unfair to other cultures and languages that are native to the land for centuries or, in many cases, millennia. At the same time, state governments are not allowed to broadcast radio or television (TV). This is unfair and unjust.

Either allow the state governments to operate television and radio in the same fashion as the Indian central government or shut down or privatize Akashvani and Doordharsan. Let private corporations broadcast television and radio in India. I bet there would not be any Sanskrit programs unless the Indian government pressures them to do so. I bet there would not be any Hindi programs broadcast in the Chennai regional center unless the Indian government pressures them to do so. Of course they will broadcast Hindi programs in north Indian and some national channels.

Either allow both the Indian central government and the state governments to operate radio and television stations or allow neither to do so. That is the right thing to do, the fair thing to do, in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual country. We do not buy the arguments of Indian government mouthpieces that state governments would politicize television and radio. Both central and state governments are run by same political parties and similar politicians. So if central government can control radio/TV broadcasting, why not state governments?

Let Hindi states promote Hindi through their own TV channels with their taxes. Let any willing state governments broadcast Sanskrit programs with their tax monies. We do not want to pay for Hindi and Sanskrit propagation through the central government taxes we pay.

(Summary: Move broadcasting (television, radio) from union list to concurrent list and thus devolve powers over television and radio from Indian government to Indian and state governments.)


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