The growth of television in the developing world over the last two decades has been extraordinary. Television was invented in the early 1900’s and was made commercially available in the 1920’s. Early television was in black and white and was broadcast via analogsignal, butadvance developments are such that now television is very much a personalized form of entertainment. Television now can broadcast a range of programming which is diverse in nature and taken from all around the globe.
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McLuhan coined the idiom “a global village” referring to the diversity of the world into becoming one village with the same thoughts and values. And this is what television has caused. Programming can make what is not a normal item in single country into something that is normal. It can change attitudes and values of a people. It can make one specific program from one country into the most wanted program in another country. Television itself has become all powerful as a medium of communication to the world. It turned the world into a global village.
Television makes the unusual become something normal. Certain things cease to be unique or amazing. It can make change one society’s attitude, whether it be good or bad. It can make that same society become similar in its materialistic values to another. It makes the world similar and eradicates the differences, which in itself can be good as well as bad. Good in that we can understand each other better but bad, in that we lose those differences that make a culture unique. And different cultures are what make all of us unique.
While television was first introduced to India in 1959, for the first three decades almost all broadcasting was in the hands of the state, and the content was primarily focused towards news or information about economic development. According to (Victoria L farmer: 256) national television system in more homogeneous societies the cultural link between programming and its audience was not clear because Indian government monopoly was predicated on its use to promote socio-economic development. Instead of television naturally reflecting a relatively homogenous national culture, Indian programming was specifically designed to create such an identity. In addition India’s sheer size meant that most of its citizens only received transmissions from within India.
The most significant innovation in terms of both content and viewership was the introduction of satellite television in the early 1990s. And since television is often watched with family and friends by those without a television or cable, the growth in actual access or exposure to cable is likely to have been even more dramatic. A number of unintended consequences arose from justifying the construction of India’s television network on the basis of television’s potential for promoting ‘development’. The satellite instructional television experiment (SITE) of 1975-6 did show that some gains could be made through provision of information on topics such as new agricultural practices and basic health care. However, these gains proved to be of very limited scope (Victoria L farmer: 258-259). Broadcast of the Asiad in 1982 was the first Indian broadcast in colour-proved to be a phenomenally popular within India, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the former minister of information and broadcasting, Indira Gandhi (Victoria L farmer depicting the nation:265).
In 1983 Doordarshan begin with commercially sponsored serials; it was a strategic decision to broadcast appealing, popular programming in order to build broad audience for effective political communication. The first hum log a drama with a family planning message begun arising in 1984. The expansion of Doordarshan reach and programming in early 1980s coupled with the advent of commercial sponsorship created a nexus linking state control of television for electoral ends with the commercial pursuit of profit through advertising (Victoria L farmer: 266). A second major consequence of Doordarshan programming in the 1980s was the erosion of the credibility of its news programming, through blatant use of the medium for publicizing congress party leaders and initiatives. This became particularly severe in the period preceding the 1989 elections, when the conspicuous use of news broadcasts for electioneering earned for Doordarshan the derisive sobriquet ‘Rajiv Darshan’ (Victoria L farmer depicting the nation: 268).
Besides that the program offerings on cable television are quite different than government programming. The most popular shows tend to be game shows and soap operas. These shows are based around the issues of family and gender. The introduction of television appears in general to have had large effects on Indian societies. This is particularly the case for gender, since this is an area where the lives of rural and slum peoples differ greatly from those depicted in television programmings. By virtue of the fact that the most popular Indian serials take place in urban settings, character depicted on these shows are typically much more emancipated than rural and slum peoples.
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Further, in many cases there is access to Western television, where these behaviors differ even more markedly from India. There is also a broader literature on the effects of television exposure on social and demographic outcomes in other countries. For example, Pace (1993) describes the effect of television introduction in Brazil on a small, isolated, Amazon community, arguing that the introduction of television changed the framework of social interactions, increased general world knowledge and changed people’s perceptions about the status of their village in the wider world.
Kottak (1990) reports on similar data from isolated areas in Brazil, and argues that the introduction of television affects (among other things) views on gender, moving individuals in these areas towards having more liberal views on the role of women in both the workplace and in relationships. And closely related to one of our outcomes, Chong, Duryea and La Ferrara (2007) report declines in fertility in Brazil in response to access to telenovelas; they also find changes in naming patterns of children, with the names of main characters featured on these programs increasing in popularity.
The change has been even more dramatic in India. In the span of just 10-15 years since it first became available, cable or satellite penetration has reached an astonishing percentage in the Bhopal. These years represent a time of rapid growth in urban slum television access. Beyond providing entertainment, television vastly increases both the availability of information about the outside world and exposure to other ways of life. This is especially true for remote, rural villages, where several ethnographic and anthropological studies have suggested that television is the primary channel through which households get information about life outside their village (Mankekar, 1993, 1998; Fernandes, 2000; Johnson, 2001; Scrase, 2002).
Most popular cable programming features urban settings where lifestyles differ in prominent and salient ways from those in rural areas. For example, many characters on popular soap operas are more educated, marry later and have smaller families. Many female characters work outside the home, sometimes as professionals, running businesses or in other positions of authority. All things rarely found in rural areas. Anthropological accounts suggest that the growth of TV in rural areas has had large effects on a wide range of day-to-day lifestyle behaviors. (Johnson, 2001).
Yet there have been few qualitative studies on the influences of television access may have had on social and demographic outcomes of rural and slum areas. Therefore, in this paper we explore the introduction of television in urban slums areas of Bhopal on a particular set of values, behaviors and attitudes towards various television programmings. Although issues of slum development are important throughout the India, they are particularly salient in Bhopal and even their conditions are significantly worse. By exposing slum households to urban attitudes and values, television may lead to improvements in their status. It is this possibility that we explore in this paper.
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