Friday, March 25, 2011

Televised Cultures

 Finally the Indian television has come of age, offering plenty of choices to its view­ers, through a variety of channels and programmes and now awaiting the DTH operations to commence. The flickering tiny box in the corner of the drawing room is no longer an idiot's box thanks to the arrival of the satellite television. Though it invited cultural debates, the satellite television has brought in a rethinking in content program­ming that invited competition and initiatives in designing more spicy programmes, be it a news story, music programme or a fashion show. But what is sad about the tel­evised media in this country is that it still lacks a desi grammar. Almost all the programme we watch, irre­spective of channels are copycats, or clones of the other acclaimed ones ran out in their nations of ori­gin like the much-debated soap operas or game shows such as the KBC or Top ten-music extravagan­za. Yet the breakthrough was for music industry; the traditional Indian homes, along with the grand­pa, granny and the tiny tots were initiated to a global chorus of pop music and lot more cultural burgers. Today the Indian youth can enjoy a musical feast, through a dozen desi and videshi music channels such as B4U Music, CMM, Sony, Channel V, MTV, SS Music etc. besides jukeboxes that the cable operators provide not to mention the FM radio and satellite music. The pro­grammes in these music channels consists of round the clock pop music which includes the Indipop, new albums, artist profiles, music masalas, remix albums, interactive and youth oriented programmes. The youth are not only lured through music but also through other 'exciting' episodes such as dancing (Club MTV), which are sensual and characterized by their sexually explicit movements. Recently a music remix in Channel V portrayed American pop star Mariah Carey in bare minimum dancing to the tune of a popular Hindi song!
The spurt in the music channels and a jump in music related pro­grammes encouraged by the multi­national advertisers need to be watched closely. One need not read Formalist School of Marxists to realize this selling of culture as commodity. The reason is simple, music has surpassed the Shakespearean imagery; it is no more the 'food of love' but a cata­lyst for power. Music of course has become the catalyst to bring about cultural transformations and thereby an environment for the economic transitions in the new media world. It is absurd to think that the Berlin wall fell just because of the rever­berations in the Eastern Europe. The base was set long before by the music channels mainly the MTV, for these music albums depicted love, life and laughter in a free soci­ety and their advantages. Despite the Chinese efforts to jam the satel­lite transmissions, MTV was able to inject frenzy among the Chinese youth, culminating in the brutal Tiananmen Square massacre that China now wants to forget. We can­not simply dismiss this as a mere musical concert, but a reincarnation of neo-imperialism.
What these music channels offer are not mere music but an' ideology, and mainly an American way of life, which advocates free sex. Along comes an array of consumer goods mainly products for youth such as watches, jeans, casual wear, accessories, perfumes, music cassettes and entertainment elec­tronic goods, all having an American or western label. The rich and vast audience comprising main­ly of the youth is then resold to the international advertisers for huge profits. What a splendid business! With more of these music channels promoted by transnational corpora­tions like Nike, Coke, KFC, Swatch, and McDonalds coming to make a media onslaught an interna­tional youth culture for which music would be the common denominator is fast becoming a reality. Thus a single advertisement is sufficient for an international launch. The credit for the international success of Titanic, and other popular music albums of American artists are pop­ular examples in this regard. The current competition show on the Channel V named Pop Stars of India to select a girl pop singer which has become a hit show among the music channels provided the immediate context to write this piece. The competition was orches­trated in the entire metropolis to attract a record gathering of girls, reiterating their commitment to embrace the western way of life. Moreover the selection was done through a primary screening con­ducted at selected campuses and was done by the new Indipop icon Subha Mudgal who personally went to see the girls waiting out in the sun in long queues. It is to be noted that the programme is being spon­sored jointly by Times of India and Coca-Cola.
The intention behind this joint business venture to create Spice Girls and Britney Spears out of Indian mud is clear,. for this is a new pasture, after the ramp in which The Bennet Coleman Group, the parent company of Times of India is already the winner.
What is the message these new cultural ambassadors have to give?

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