Tamil Thirai, the 24-hour free-to-air Tamil entertainment channel promoted by members of the film industry of Tamil Nadu, finally went on air on Friday (May 6, 2005). The launch event was a show of strength, with every other face in the first five rows being a popular face from TV or cinema or both.
After the dignitaries were called on stage, the first few rows went empty. There were over 60 people seated on the dais at the launch, including Union Minister of Mines, Dasari Narayana Rao, Film Director and Legend K Balachander, Music Composer Illayaraaja, and a host of producers, lyricists, composers, technicians, directors, actors and actresses. The underlining factor was the presence of the elected representatives of the cable TV operators association and the film distributors association of Tamil Nadu.
Chairman of the channel, film director Bharathi Raaja, said, "Our aim is not to capture someone else's share of the sky, but we want to ensure that we don't lose our own space. The channel will help us move beyond the large screen format and cinema into art, culture, heritage, sports, and more. It will aim to be an identity for Tamilians across the world."
Dasari Narayana Rao, Union Minister, and a director of 148 films, reminded the audience of the power of the film industry, stating, "The industry's move into the small screen has perhaps come a decade late, because of the misconception that television is 'inferior'. Without the software from films - interviews, songs, movies, clips, etc - no satellite entertainment channel can survive. It is our software that is driving TV channels. Let us also reap the benefits of our creations."
The channel inaugurated a 63 programmes in a long-drawn affair that went past midnight. The 'cultural events' had the unmistakable flavour of a Tamil film industry event, complete with mimicry, song and dance. One wonders why a film awards night hadn't been coupled with the launch event because it could well have been completed at no extra cost, with most of the elements present anyways, the industry included. This is the second launch of the channel.
The inimitable Illayaraaja stole the thunder from his more glamorous counterparts when he said: "I have had the good fortune of launching this channel twice. The issues for the channel will not be from outside. It is us, sitting next to each other, but with thoughts and ideas that are far away from each other, who need to put our heads and minds together to get this going."
As reported by exchange4media earlier, the channel is being carried by SCV, Sun Network's MSO, and also by Hathway. The channel's stakeholders include Cable TV operators from across the state. In Chennai currently, while the Channel is available with clarity in some areas, in others it has been relegated to bands that are too hazy to watch.
Speaking to exchange4media, Managing Director of TTV, R.K.Selvamani, expressed the hope that in due course the channel would be visible with clarity across not just in Chennai but also across the country. He said, "These are early days. It will take some time for technicalities to be fully sorted out on the distribution front. We have been assured that the channel will start airing on the 'prime' or 'S' bands shortly. This should start happening within a week or so."
"If that happens, the channel is in with a realistic chance," said a media planning professional on the sidelines of the launch,
On Friday evening, the audience was largely a mix from the two industries that drive entertainment in Tamil Nadu - the film industry and that of the Cable TV operators. If they stick together, they could pose some competition to the existing players.