Guest Column: India ranks 5th in the number of TV channels

As far as news channels are concerned, differentiating between truth and falsehood is essential, says Joginder Singh, former CBI Director

e4m by Joginder Singh
Updated: Nov 20, 2014 7:59 AM
Guest Column: India ranks 5th in the number of TV channels

Out of the 228 countries listed, only 97 have ten and more channels, the rest of the 131 countries in the world have 9 or less than 9 TV channels. 8 countries have no channels or they link up to other countries. 10 countries have no TV channels. The top five countries in the number of TV Channels are as under;

Russia        7,306
China          3,240
European Union  2,700
United States       2,218
India with 1,400 TV channels ranks 5th in the world.

This figure is an estimate as the picture at least in our country keeps changing with new additions or subtractions.

An unofficial global figure of approximately 15,000 TV channels - including local, national, international & IPTV has been passed around.

The job of the 24-hour channels is arduous, in spite of the fact that nobody watches any TV channel, for 24 hours a day, seven days a week or 30 days in a month.

TV channels are of  various varieties and  have various categories in India. Some are religious channels, others are music or movie or news or entertainment of both the local and national flavours. The idea behind all the channels is to make money or at least break even and be self sufficient, like the rest of the business in  the country. The only difference is that they have to learn, whereas the Government-run channels, continue running at the cost of the tax payers, whether he is watching anything or not. 

Nobody in his right senses would find fault with the TV media in making money, as they have to pay attractive salaries to retain the best quality staff. Moreover, like film stars, the TV artists or presenters, have a limited saleability life span. Whether in the Government-run TV or other media, the interests of the stakeholders or common man are secondary. Criticism of the Government policies or functionaries is a strict ‘no-no’. Once I went to such a channel and said that there is over centralisation of all purchases, right from a pencil, papers to the costliest items. The producer came to me and said, “We will have to remove any traces of criticism, as we do not want to annoy the powers that be.” I protested saying that what I said was based on facts and figures and gave him the details of the delay in various projects and schemes for such policies. I was never invited again and the line I had taken was dropped. I ran into the gentleman after his retirement and he himself admitted that he was acting on the general policy laid down. I reminded him, that if what I had said was a lie, it would bring me odium. If what I said was correct, then it cannot be concealed, from the people, as other TV channels do not have to depend on any subsidy from the Government. I reminded him that when Lord Jesus Christ was ordered to be crucified, for saying that  He was Son of God, one of the judges was against it. He said, “If it was a lie, then whatever he has said, will disappear and if what He said was the Truth, it will live forever.”

This is equally applicable to the visual media, which has a more difficult job, as it has to produce or show a video of what has happened and not end with simple reporting. The need to fill airtime – and particularly the need to be seen to be live – means that in the heat of the moment questionable judgments can be made. But it should not take away our thinking power and we should be able to judge and differentiate between the truth and falsehood. In the quest of being the first, all TV channels start with "breaking news", whether there is news or not. Nobody says that TV channels are perfect. Like human beings, everything is ‘perfectly imperfect’ and it is up to each one to see a TV channel of our likes or avoid for our dislikes.

The author is former CBI Director.

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