Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India and President, Indian Broadcasting Foundation, speaks on the less talked about highlights of the year, and the decade gone...
The decade and the year gone have seen much happening in the Indian media industry, and the television industry, in particular. Due to the increased competition in many sectors, the choice for consumers has gone up significantly. The competition in the general entertainment space per se, but specifically Hindi or even regional categories, has benefited everyone. Viewers have got better content options. It is disappointing to see not too many speak of all this, especially because this is an industry where people talk about content only when they want to point out something wrong. We are a pluralistic society and that pluralism needs to be promoted, reflected and maintained in content – what better way than greater competition.
Television content is a lot more effective today than it was a year ago.
If you had to see the picture in terms of the decade, there are clearly two to three things that come to mind. First, we have created a media, whose sheer size is something we should be proud of. Everybody talks about what telecom has done, but if you look at the record of cable & satellite television, there are over a 130 million cable homes. Now, if you take five people per home, the number of people who are coming in contact with television is way in excess of the number of people coming in contact with mobile. One big thing is the kind of social impact television has had. It is perhaps the single biggest source of empowerment and the single biggest source of promoting and reinforcing family values. It has built and shaped aspirations of good living, career, home behaviour, in all aspects. What it has contributed towards economy, which is, creating a national market, is clearly not understood or appreciated and definitely not acknowledged.
If the Indian economy is booming and if our policymakers go and talk about how the Indian economy is far more resilient, it’s because we have created a huge internal market. Television has played a huge role in creating that market. For an internal market place, you need a platform for showcasing goods and products – television has provided that. When you take Star Plus and say that it has reached 80-82 million people, there is no other vehicle which an advertiser can use to reach out to 82 million people in a week. That is a remarkable story, and a phenomenon of this decade. Before 2000, television was very small. The mega reach vehicles weren’t created in this country. Newspaper was the only alternative and they, too, were present in pockets. Even today, the biggest English newspaper is just 6-7 city phenomena. For the consuming classes and for those who were trying to create a nationwide consumer across the length and breadth of India, television emerges as a national market place. So, you can pick your toothpaste, your car, garments and put affordable messages day after day across audiences. This has gone to create a large number of consumer brands, a nationwide consumer appetite and has played enormously significant role in the economy of the country.
Television has also played an important role politically. News channels have done a spectacular job. They have done mistakes every now and then, but that goes with growing up and maturing of media. Today, we are seeing a national debate on corruption, which has been created primarily because of the electronic media. In the past there had been terrorist attacks, but the fact that the Home Minister of the Union and the Home Minister of the State Government and the Chief Minister had to resign was primarily because of television, because television turned the 26/11 attack by showing mistakes and messages in every home and triggered a spontaneous debate on accountability. And then, the political classes were forced to response to it. So, I think politically, economically and socially, this decade has been shaped by television in a very big way and the society should be a lot more appreciative of the contribution of TV.