Hail Television!

Preeti Panwar

Everybody loves to watch it. Everybody is smitten by its charm and glamour. Nobody is spared from its irrestible temptation. Most consider themselves privileged if they appear on it. In fact they even yearn for it and it is the best choice for one’s pastime. It is a little bit more than timepass - nobody can even imagine his/her life without it. Perhaps, it is as much as important as water! Yes, it is Television!

Rightly so, this gadget has a day dedicated to the celebration of its existence. November 21 is World Television day. It’s a day on which we pay tribute to the best invention ever on the face of Earth, perhaps.

All thanks to the great scientist John Logie Baird who was, literally, the man behind this magical screen.

As far as the history of Television is concerned, it goes back to the invention of wireless telegraphy by Marconi in 1897 which was followed by a series of great inventors who contributed in various ways in the making of the television.

TV in India:

Television made its humble entry into India on 15th September, 1959 in the form of Doordarshan which was quite late as compared to its Western debut. Initially, Television services in India were clubbed with those of All India Radio (AIR). But, it became a separate entity as it gained popularity among the masses by 1976. Then there was no looking back for this larger than life small screen.

One of the biggest milestones was when Colour Television made its debut during Asian Games in India, along with the birth of mythological serials like Ramayana and Mahabharata and social commentaries like Hum Log after 1982.

With the passage of time, diverse innovations took place in television industry after liberalisation of the economy in 1991. Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) project, a joint venture of America’s NASA and our ISRO, drastically helped in spreading education in rural parts of India in 1975.

The launch of cable TV, Satellite TV and most recently Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) launched a storm of channels like Zee TV among hundreds others on the scene.

Not just an ‘idiot’ box:

Television has always grabbed the attention of people from all age groups- - from a small child to an old person. It offers numerous advantages to us all. The basic function that TV performs is to inform, educate and entertain. From US President Barack Obama’s high profile first visit in India to the spectacular Commonwealth Games, to name a few, we can witness all these happenings while relaxing in our drawing rooms. Most of it is history in the making and we can see it for ourselves in real time, all the time realising we are a part of it all.

Eminent personalities from all over address the world on a range of issues with the help of the powerful electronic medium of television. It’s audio-visual characteristic makes TV a unique and interesting mode of communication to reach large number of masses simultaneously. It provides interactivity on the largest scale and helps in formulating opinions and making decisions on important issues.

Television watching hardly puts any pressure on us. It surpasses the demarcation of literacy and everybody can understand it. We can fully enjoy this audio-visual medium according to our own wishes with a remote in hand.

Something for all:

The medium has something for all, thanks to so many channels that we have got today which cater to the needs of all kinds of audiences. Each targets a particular and specific genre. For instance, there are entertainment-oriented channels which target particularly the ‘youth’. Then we have action oriented shows and those based on crime, thriller and horror shows. Daily soap operas focus mainly on the housewives and are meant for family viewing. For children, there are special channels that carry animated content like Cartoon Network, Pogo etc.

Then there are Discovery and National Geographic kind of channels that are best to watch to enhance knowledge base in the spheres of science, nature, wildlife, universe, technology, etc.

For entertainment purposes, there are lots of music channels, movie channels and comedy shows. Just keep sitting on the couch and get entertained on a lazy day.

To get updated every second about the world happenings, there is a plethora of news channels in Hindi as well as English and also in regional languages.

Television has come a long way since the 1990s. Now, there are new trends which have totally revolutionalized the whole process of TV watching. The ‘idiot-box’ broadcast also includes a number of reality shows ranging from talent- oriented music and dance shows, stand-up comedy shows, talk shows to game shows which have helped folks from backward parts of India to showcase their talent and better their lives.

But, some reality shows like Bigg Boss, Rakhi Ka Insaaf, Raaz Pichle Janam Ka, Roadies, Splitsvilla etc have come in for criticism for showing voyeurism, vulgarity, adult-content, abusive language which has prompted sharp debates in the society about the very phenomena of TV. Activists say these shows should be dealt with strictly by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. They do not have any right to promote vulgarity on national TV in the garb of entertainment, add activists.

The Makeover:

Importantly, television has undergone a sea-change technologically. From big sized chunky boxes to slim LCDs and flat plasmas, the entire look and feel of TV has completely changed while keeping pace with the present scenario. The Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology is also eco-friendly which is a healthy trend in order to protect our Earth lest it is doomed on the altar of our entertainment.

On the whole, the ‘great’ television has contributed a lot in terms of spreading education, information, globalisation and has changed the way we socialize with others to a great extent.

In a way it has levelled the world and made it flat. Though not in India, TV appears to be reaching a saturation point in terms of content world over. Will humans continue to be interested in the small box or will they find another outlet to their inner madness is something we will see in the next few decades.