Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Idiot Box

Television has always been seen as an 'instrument for entertainment'. Its prime function is to amuse and entertain people in their idle time or to kill their boredom. Most of the English teachers in primary schools are obsessed with essays on 'Television: An Idiot box'. Almost every year, students give identical rhetoric speeches on same topic in elocution competitions and debates and keep on proving television as an Idiot Box. Thus, from a very small age, we solidify the notions of watching television as a trivial activity which is used to kill time or for pleasure and to get information (through 24 hours running news channels or National Geography and Discovery channels).

Is watching television only limited till the above stated notions developed in us from a young age? As a matter of fact, television industry is a highly profitable industry. It not only generates employment in creative sector, like writing, acting, directing, etc. but also, in technical and financial sectors. Qualified engineers are recruited to develop and circulate new and latest technologies such as Direct to Home (DTH) services, inventing new and better television sets for a better television watching experience, technical assistance in producing television programmes, telecasting them and so on. Thus television also plays an important role in economic development of any country.

Not only economical, but television can also cause major political repercussions. Arvind Rajgopal in his book, ‘Politics After Television’, analysis the emergence of one of the strongest political parties and the development of Hindutva movement in India. He says, “In January 1987, the Indian state-run television began broadcasting a Hindu epic in serial form, The Ramayana, to nationwide audiences, violating a decade-old taboo on religious partisanship. What resulted was the largest political campaign in post-independence times, around the symbol of Lord Ram, led by Hindu nationalists. The complexion of Indian politics was irrevocably changed thereafter.” He further adds, “While audiences may have thought they were harking back to an epic golden age, Hindu nationalist leaders were embracing the prospects of neoliberalism and globalisation. Television was the device that hinged these movements together, symbolising the new possibilities of politics, at once more inclusive and authoritarian.” Studies like these establish that watching television is after all not as trivial an activity as it seems to be. It can influence ideologies of masses which can result into great political moments.

Along with economic and political affects, television greatly influences our cultural dynamics. On one hand India is shackling out of its third world image the popular mediums (read current Indian soap operas), representing it‘s culture across the globe still depict India as a socially rigid nation.

The idiot box is not as idiot as it seems, infact on is not aware about when the viewer is converted into believing the myths floated from the same.