Television service in India is available throughout the country. Broadcasting is a central government monopoly under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, but the only network system, Doordarshan, also known as TV1, accepts advertisements for some programs. Doordarshan, established in 1959 and a part of All India Radio until 1976, consists of one national network and seven regional networks. In 1992 there were sixty-three high-power television transmitters, 369 medium-power transmitters, seventy-six low-power transmitters, and twenty-three transposers. Regular satellite transmissions began in 1982 (the same year color transmission began).
Indian television viewers - By 1994 some 6 million people were receiving television broadcasts via satellite, and the number was expected to increase rapidly throughout the rest of the decade. Cable television was even more prolific, with an estimated 12 to 15 million subscribers in 1994.
A Snapshot of Indian Television History
Television in India has been in existence for nigh on four decades. For the first 17 years, it spread haltingly and transmission was mainly in black & white. The thinkers and policy makers of the country, which had just been liberated from centuries of colonial rule, frowned upon television, looking on at it as a luxury Indians could do without. In 1955 a Cabinet decision was taken disallowing any foreign investments in print media which has since been followed religiously for nearly 45 years. Sales of TV sets, as reflected by licences issued to buyers were just 676,615 until 1977.
Television has come to the forefront only in the past 21 years and more so in the past 13. There were initially two ignition points: the first in the eighties when colour TV was introduced by state-owned broadcaster Doordarshan (DD) timed with the 1982 Asian Games which India hosted. It then proceeded to install transmitters nationwide rapidly for terrestrial broadcasting. In this period no private enterprise was allowed to set up TV stations or to transmit TV signals.
The second spark came in the early nineties with the broadcast of satellite TV by foreign programmers like CNN followed by Star TV and a little later by domestic channels such as Zee TV and Sun TV into Indian homes. Prior to this, Indian viewers had to make do with DD’s chosen fare which was dull, non-commercial in nature, directed towardsonly education and socio-economic development. Entertainment programmes were few and far between. And when the solitary few soaps like Hum Log (1984), and mythological dramas: Ramayan (1987-88) and Mahabharat (1988-89) were televised, millions of viewers stayed glued to their sets.
When, urban Indians learnt that it was possible to watch the Gulf War on television, they rushed out and bought dishes for their homes. Others turned entrepreneurs and started offering the signal to their neighbours by flinging cable over treetops and verandahs. From the large metros satellite TV delivered via cable moved into smaller towns, spurring the purchase of TV sets and even the upgradation from black & white to colour TVs.
DD responded to this satellite TV invasion by launching an entertainment and commercially driven channel and introduced entertainment programming on its terrestrial network. This again fuelled the purchase of sets in the hinterlands where cable TV was not available.
The initial success of the channels had a snowball effect: more foreign programmers and Indian entrepreneurs flagged off their own versions. From two channels prior to 1991, Indian viewers were exposed to more than 50 channels by 1996. Software producers emerged to cater to the programming boom almost overnight. Some talent came from the film industry, some from advertising and some from journalism.
More and more people set up networks until there was a time in 1995-96 when an estimated 60,000 cable operators were existing in the country. Some of them had subscriber bases as low as 50 to as high as in the thousands. Most of the networks could relay just 6 to 14 channels as higher channel relaying capacity required heavy investments, which cable operators were loathe to make. American and European cable networks evinced interest, as well as large Indian business groups, who set up sophisticated headends capable of delivering more than 30 channels. These multi-system operators (MSOs) started buying up local networks or franchising cable TV feeds to the smaller operators for a fee. This phenomenon led to resistance from smaller cable operators who joined forces and started functioning as MSOs. The net outcome was that the number of cable operators in the country has fallen to 30,000.
The rash of players who rushed to set up satellite channels discovered that advertising revenue was not large enough to support them. This led to a shakeout. At least half a dozen either folded up or aborted the high-flying plans they had drawn up, and started operating in a restricted manner. Some of them converted their channels into basic subscription services charging cable operators a carriage fee.
Foreign cable TV MSOs discovered that the cable TV market was too disorganised for them to operate in and at least three of them decided to postpone their plans and got out of the market.
The government started taxing cable operators in a bid to generate revenue. The rates varied in the 26 states that go to form India and ranged from 35 per cent upwards. The authorities moved in to regulate the business and a Cable TV Act was passed in 1995. The apex court in the country, the Supreme Court, passed a judgement that the air waves are not the property of the Indian government and any Indian citizen wanting to use them should be allowed to do so. The government reacted by making efforts to get some regulation in place by setting up committees to suggest what the broadcasting law of India should be, as the sector was still being governed by laws which were passed in 19th century India. A broadcasting bill was drawn up in 1997 and introduced in parliament. But it was not passed into an Act. State-owned telecaster Doordarshan and radiocaster All India Radio were brought under a holding company called the Prasar Bharati under an act that had been gathering dust for seven years, the Prasar Bharati Act, 1990. The Act served to give autonomy to the broadcasters as their management was left to a supervisory board consisting of retired professionals and bureaucrats.
A committee headed by a senior Congress (I) politician Sharad Pawar and consisting of other politicians and industrialist was set up to review the contents of the Broadcasting Bill. It held discussions with industry, politicians, and consumers and a report was even drawn up. But the United Front government fell and since then the report and the Bill have been consigned to the dustbin. But before that it issued a ban on the sale of Ku-band dishes and on digital direct-to-home Ku-band broadcasting, which the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Television was threatening to start in India. ISkyB, the Murdoch DTH venture, has since been wallowing in quicksand and in recent times has even shed a lot of employees. But News Corp has been running a C-band DTH venture in the country which has around 20,000 subscribers.
In 1999, a BJP-led government has been threatening to once again allow DTH Ku-band broadcasting and it has been talking of dismantling the Prasar Bharati and once again reverting Doordarshan’s and All India Radio’s control back in the government’s hands. Some things change only to remain the same.
Besides Doordarshan, Zee TV–an independent station broadcasting from Bombay since 1992–uses satellite transmissions.n fact, because Doordarshan is the only network that is permitted to broadcast television signals domestically, Zee TV and other entrepreneurs broadcast their Indian-made videotapes via foreign transmitters.
TV channels in India. Other networks joining the fray are Cable News Network (CNN–starting in 1990); Asia Television Network (1991); Hong Kong-based Star TV (1991); Jain TV, near Bombay (1994); EL TV, a spinoff of Zee TV in Bombay (1994); HTV, an affiliate of the Hindustan Times in New Delhi (1994); and Sun TV, a Tamil-language service in Madras (1994) (see Broadcast Media, ch. 8). In a communications breakthrough for Indian Televiosn in July 1995, Doordarshan agreed, for a US$1.5 million annual fee and 50 percent of advertising revenue when it exceeds US$1.5 million, to allow CNN to broadcast twenty-four hours a day via an Indian satellite.
Indian television channel Doordarshan offers national, regional, and local service for Indian television viewers. The number of televisions in India sets increased from around 500,000 in 1976 to 9 million in early 1987 and to around 47 million in 1994; increases are expected to continue at around 6 million sets per year.
More than 75 percent of television sets in India were black and white models in 1992, but the proportion of color sets is increasing annually. Most television sets are produced in India. - Indian Television Data 1995.
The television channels guide of India provides extensive information on the popular television channels of India. Under the television channels directory view an online website listing of leading national and regional television channels of India and browse the websites to get detailed information such as program schedules, calendar, news, analysis, etc. Popular television channels on a wide variety of topics including sports, religion, entertainment, music, movies and news is available under the directory on television channels.
Television Channels – Directory
Actors & Actresses (21)
Amusement & Parks (27)
Bollywood Information (58)
CDs & DVDs (35)
Chats and Forums (45)
Clubs in India (25)
Dancers & Troupes @ (18)
Event Organisers @ (239)
Events & Fashion Shows (30)
FM Radio Stations (16)
Games & Gaming Sites (34)
Humor (76) Magic & Magician (16)
Models & Modelling (11)
Movie Theaters & Tickets (24)
Movies and Films (64)
Music & Songs (87)
Musical Instruments (42)
Restaurants & Cuisines (85)
Software Download (25)
Television Channels (76)
TV Serials / Shows (16)
Yoga & Meditation (58)
Television Channels Websites
• 123Channels.com - offering free television online and watch live TV channels.
• Zee Tv - A official site of Zee TV network that provide all information about all shows & serials, shows and serials broadcasting also listing.
• BBC CBeebies India - A website providing information about television program for children’s.
• Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd, - A kids tv channel providing entertainment video, contests, nick home cinema and nick mobile.
• Amul TV - A TV chennal providing movies, shows.
• Set India Pvt. Limited - A cartoon television channel providing various types of cartoon shows.
• Alliance Broadcasting Pvt. Ltd. - A TV channel on real estate providing news & information about real estate such as banking & finances, budget business and company analysis.
• 9XM - A musical entertainment Hindi channel providing bollywood songs, videos and bollywood news.
• Inx Media Pvt. Ltd. - An entertainment Hindi channel airing family programmes, devotional programmes, videos and movies.
• Zee Kannada - A Kannada language GEC competing in the South Indian market.
• Indusind Media Communications - A Hindi channel showing bollywood movies.
• Alpha Marathi - A Marathi language channel airing Marathi programmes.
• Classic Cinema - A Hindi movie channel airing old bollywood movies.
• Zee TV - A television channel providing information about Zee TV programme guide.
• Zee Studio - A hollywood channel showing movies, movie calender, stars, gallery, events, gossip and community.
Seven Star - A healthcare TV channel showing health related information.
Zee Cinema - A Hindi movie channel airing action oriented films.
Zee Sports Limited - A 24 hour sports channel showing sports like cricket, football, tennis, golf and motor sports.
Submitted by Arulanandini, MSc Psychology, August, 2009.
Television in India/An analysis 0f 50 years in The Hindu
Fifty golden years?
In the beginning, television was earnest.
It was determined to educate, first the general populace in a handful of villages around Delhi, then, with the weighty intervention of Vikram Sarabhai, farmers in 80 villages, also around Delhi. The people running TV knew just a tiny bit more about the medium than the people receiving it, but they meant well. Engineers doubled as cameramen, editing equipment did not exist, so recording a skit meant that you started again from the beginning if somebody goofed. They learned on the job. Teleprompting meant the announcer scribbled reminders to herself on her hand. If the nation was grateful for these improvised ministrations, it is not recorded.
Sarabhai thought big and he thought rural. He wanted to reach the most difficult and least developed areas of the country first. So the next target was 2,400 villages in six states in six languages. It created history, and the people at the top were pleased. The village folk were bemused. When the novelty wore off, they went back to their daily chores. The official evaluation showed that in the year it lasted, 39 per cent of the people in the experimental villages never viewed even a single programme. But, what the heck, the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment was the first of its kind in the world, and we can keep claiming that till kingdom come.
In the beginning television was educational.
It sought to compensate for India’s dismal rural schools. Unfortunately, TV needs electricity to run. Sometimes it was there, sometimes it was not. But the kids liked this new thing which had their teachers bumbling around trying to figure out what their role was supposed to be when the idiot box came sporadically to life and blared lessons. The children began to ask questions, they got the school lab cupboards opened, TV was forcing teachers to attend classes regularly as they had to provide feedback. But, mercifully for the teachers, all well-intended experiments come to an end. Even if it was sporadically revived later, in other parts of the country.
Early on TV discovered its noble role as a Development Communicator.
The initial goals were modest, you told people not to spit in public places, to wash their vegetables before cooking them, to plant trees. Then came the Emergency and the Twenty Point Programme where planting trees acquired the status of a mantra. Doordarshan Kendras competed with each other to produce quickies on each of the 20 points and telecast them. Mercifully, most of India had not acquired television sets as yet.
Early on, it became The Great Employer.
When the Emergency brought with it the need for a propaganda machine, TV was hastily expanded to Calcutta, Madras, Lucknow. There were hardly any TV hands around so you sent radio professionals. But since entire Kendras offered opportunities for all kinds of employment, never mind skills, politicians woke up joyously to the possibilities it offered for their kith and kin. The broadcaster was, after all, a government department, ripe for those two hardy -isms, adhocism and nepotism. Once you’ve got in, you stay till retirement.
During the Emergency Doordarshan was born and rapidly discovered its true vocation.
Lack of experience has never been a constraint for anybody feeling purposeful within Doordarshan. Lessons on censorship and propaganda were quickly learned. Sanjay Gandhi and his five point programme had to be promoted, Jai Prakash Narain was to be blacked out, the only films to be shown on Doordarshan were those of film stars who had supported the Emergency. A huge opposition rally being organised? Telecast “Bobby”, just at that time. Alas, people attended the rally anyway.
Halfway through those fifty golden years, Indian television discovered colour, and then sponsorship.
The country’s scientific advisors thought colour TV was not a good idea, it would make development communication non-serious. But I and B Minister Vasant Sathe went to what was then Ceylon and found to his mortification that even they had colour TV. Finally, getting the Asiad clinched the issue. Much has been written about the warm and touching saga of “Hum Log”, telecast through 1984-85. Less about its success in selling Maggi 2- Minute Noodles. Advertising had discovered television. In years to come, it would reorder the medium to serve its purpose.
There is no greater patriot than television.
It fought militancy in Kashmir and Punjab. Doordarshan spawned a genre known as sarson di saga, in which brave tales were told of families that fought back the dark intruders. Independent producers were able to make some money producing these, even as people in Kashmir and Punjab, miffed at this insult to their intelligence, turned to Pakistani serials.
Loyalty demands censorship. You don’t tell people that the Prime Minister has been assassinated because it might undermine the State. You don’t show that the Babri Masjid has fallen because it could spark riots. When Rajiv Gandhi was killed, DD did not interrupt a programme on birds to announce his death because by then, he was not the Prime Minister, he was a mere opposition leader.
But censorship spawns competition.
In 1991 Nalini Singh’s booth capturing footage for Doordarshan had the Cabinet Secretary and the Home Secretary of the Government of India trying to decide if it should be shown.
But everything Doordarshan declined to show appeared on video news magazines. They prowled the countryside in search of stories, took the camera where DD didn’t, covered riots while Doordarshan’s camera teams regularly fled violent situations because they would have to face the music if their cameras were destroyed. DD’s news division would later buy footage from other camera people present. Karan Thapar, Madhu Trehan, Tavleen Singh and others interviewed anyone willing to make controversial statements within government, or outside.
Television discovered religion.
With “Ramayan”, then with “Mahabharat”, then with “Krishna” on DD2. Zee TV picked up where DD left off, so did all the others that followed. Religious channels followed at the beginning of this decade, NDTV Imagine and Colors reinvented the same epics, exactly two decades later. Everybody made money on god sagas, including NRI academics who hotfooted it to India to write books on the subject.
It discovered women.
In the beginning there was Kalyani in “Udaan”, loveable, believable, emulate-able. Then came Rajni who quickly acquired a fan following. “Hum Log” had brought us a bossy grandmother, doormat mother, plucky daughters. “Humraahi” brought us more pious role models. Then came “Tara” on Zee. Neena Gupta gave us “Dard”, and “Pukar”, and on satellite TV, “Saans”. “Tulsi” reinvented India womanhood, Jassi restored normalcy.
Television has spawned women producers who, for a while, laughed all the way to the bank. Ekta Kapoor listed her soap factory on the stock exchange. And decades after Doordarshan’s efforts on behalf of the girl child, the atrocities against her are being spun into hard cash. Who would have thought you could turn child brides, servant girls, and aborted foetuses into money spinners on television? If a social problem is not mitigated, do the next best thing: exploit it commercially.
And everybody discovered news.
What began quite sedately with Neeti Ravindran, Tejeshwar Singh, Prannoy Roy, Vinod Dua and S.P. Singh, has now acquired a life of its own. NDTV made it a soap box for the chattering classes, India TV reinvented it as a horror genre, Zee News made it a platform for solving marital dilemmas. Down south, TV9 makes flood victims in mid-water perform for the cameras, while Sun TV and Jaya TV have taught others in the business not to be squeamish about Using Television. TV news is India’s vicarious new reality.
In the beginning we were truly a mass audience. Alas, no longer.
We watched “Buniyaad” and “Chitrahaar”, and cricket and Mile Sur, and the Torch of Freedom. We watched (or switched off) when Doordarshan showed us documentaries on public sector zinc factories or the uni-gauge conversion of Indian Railways (and failed to get the spelling of gauge right). We listened to Prime Ministers and Presidents at critical moments in our history.
Then came Ridge and Brook via satellite uplink from Hong Kong, followed by MTV and Channel V, Sun TV and ETV and Zee and Star. We splintered into many audiences riven by language and interest and class. Sometimes we watched the same ads but in many languages. The only thing that now unites us on TV is disasters of the 26/11 kind.
Because, even Indo-Pak cricket matches are no longer every Indian’s cup of tea. We’ve learnt to be unpredictable. Good luck to all you media buyers out there.
The writer, Sevanthi Ninan is a media critic and columnist based in Delhi.
Analysis of TV Programs in India
Small screen tamasha
NUPUR BASU in The Hindu
Between clones of programmes conceived in Western boardrooms and Indian ones that perpetuate various stereotypes, the viewer is yet to experience true empowerment on the small screen.
The streets of Kabul were deserted at 8 p.m. last summer because the Indian soap “Saas bhi Khabi Bahu thi” was being beamed on television sets. A newspaper reporting this phenomenon may have surprised many readers. But it did not surprise me. I had travelled extensively in Pakistan while directing a documentary — “Michael Jackson Comes to Manikganj”— on the impact of satellite television in South Asia in 2000 and from Macchcher Colony, Karachi’s biggest slum, to the buzzing marketplace of Peshawar, to the leafy neighbourhoods of Lahore and Islamabad, I had recorded a loyal viewership for Indian soaps and game shows across the border. Pakistan during those years had no satellite television and it was the Indian channels that were exercising monopolistic control over viewers hungry for satellite television images in South Asia. The same hunger was recorded in Bangladesh (for Bengali satellite channels), Sri Lanka (Tamil satellite channels) and Nepal.
Interestingly though, before satellite television came with its glitzy glamorous soaps and game shows, it was Pakistani soaps that were much sought after in markets in Delhi and other North Indian cities as they had a rapt viewership amongst a huge segment of viewers in India. Celebrated as the high quality of parallel cinema in India, these Pakistani soaps sold in the form of VCDs which VCR-owning households watched.
Indian streets also emptied out on mornings that “Ramayana” aired on the only State-owned channel, Doordarshan, also watched in rapt attention by millions of viewers. “Sustaining family viewing on programmes like ‘Ramayan’, ‘Hum Log’ on One TV and One Channel resulted in a captive viewer in those early years for Doordarshan — a phenomenon that got totally fragmented when cable television came with it’s multiple channels and Indian homes began to get multiple TV sets,” says Akhila Sivadas, from the Delhi-based Centre For Advocacy and Research (CFAR) which has done several studies on Indian television.
The last 50 years of Indian television, which saw the birth of India’s State-controlled channel Doordarshan in the late 1950s and which held monopoly for nearly three decades to the opening up of the skies with satellite channels which today go up to 400 channels, has been a roller coaster ride for both the ever-increasing eyeballs in India and it’s neighbours. The interesting cross-border pollination in South Asia can best be described as Good, Bad and Ugly.
From serials like “Hum Log”, “Tamas”, “Nukkad”, “Malgudi Days” and even “Rajani” on the State-owned Doordarshan to it’s satellite avatars in soaps like “Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu thi” and the entire K series by Ekta Kapoor that became synonymous with Indian masala, these soaps commanded high TRPs . “Most of these soaps were highly sensational, highly voyeuristic and highly ambitious — issues of identity, entitlement were explored while depicting the Indian family in turmoil. It also took the clock back by showing the Indian woman as conventional,” says Sivadas adding that “these clichéd genres however created a stock of loyal viewers while others came and went away disappointed.” Adored by certain segments of viewers and lambasted by others, these soaps came to stay and dominated for over a decade. It is only of late that there is a shifting of gears to more socially relevant soaps like “Balika Bodhu”, “Radha ki Ladkiyan Kar dikhayenge”, “Lado”, “Ladies Special”, “Antara” and others. The Indian woman however remained central in the soaps as they remained the principal viewers of this segment of programming with news and sports being categorised as the programmes that men watched.
“From soaps to reality shows it was like a seamless transition for Indian television producers,” says Akhila Sivadas. Reality shows first surfaced and tested the waters in the form of game-based shows like “Kaun Banega Crorepati”. Anchored by Amitabh Bachchan, KBC created television history in terms of reach and TRPs within the very first week of being on air. A remake of the British show “Who wants to be a millionaire?” it did effectively what “Ramayan” had done earlier to viewers — emptied the streets and brought the entire family back in front of the television sets from the slums of Dharavi in Mumbai to the leafy bungalows of Lutyens’ Delhi. Only the object of worship had changed — from God to Money. Its success inspired the graph for reality shows which then took several forms from game-based shows to talent hunts like “Sa Re Ga Ma”, “Nach Baliye”, “Aja Naach le” and “Indian Idol”.
These mass-mediated shows that involved hundreds of people from the aspiring small towns of India did in a sense lead to a democratisation of television and gave a false sense that the people actually controlled the medium. However, time and again, scams on how the SMS polls were conducted showed how it was not as level a playing field as it was made out to be and things were not above board.
Of late the graph of reality shows has been climbing with programme makers and channels lining up for such programming to shore up sinking TRPs and keep their channels afloat. The motto is clearly to create, shock and awe. The more bizarre and more voyeuristic, the better the chance of it getting on the channel. Reality shows like “Bigg Boss”, “Rakhi Ka Swayamvar”, “Khatron Ke Khiladi” and “Sach Ka Saamna” have had their share of voyeuristic viewership and also lambasting critique. While “Khatron Ke Khiladi” got adverse publicity when one of the participants nearly got killed with water in his lungs, giving rise to critique about “cruel entertainment”, “Sach Ka Saamna” had Indian parliamentarians across political parties demanding that it be taken off air.
Information Minister Ambica Soni, speaking at a seminar on 50 years of Indian television organised by Public Service Broadcast Trust (PSBT) in September this year, said that she had sleepless nights as her colleagues from Parliament put her on the mat demanding that the programme be dragged off air. The programme makers had in turn defended themselves saying they were only depicting Indian reality. The minister warned programme makers to keep in mind the sensitivity of people while putting out such reality shows or the government would be forced to act.
The jury, however, is still out on reality-based shows on Indian television. In fact it is out on Indian television in its present avatar itself. Fifty years after television came to India, Indian audiences are caught between programming that is still being dictated by western boardrooms based on cloned shows that have worked abroad and Indian serial producers who continue to script along the patriarchal view of the Indian family. The audience is restless — they have tasted empowerment and demand it on their television screens as well.
Nupur Basu was a former Senior Editor with NDTV and is presently an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker.