Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Regional Language TV vs National TV

I have always thought the regional language channels that serve general entertainment (non-sports, non-news) are much better than national TV (Z, Star, Sony etc.), in terms of the variety as well as the quality of programming. Why is the difference so stark? (If you disagree, do comment.) I believe regional language TV are doing quite well commercially too, despite covering programmes on literature, classical music, agriculture, dialects, warnings to fishermen, political debates, in depth interviews with non-celebrities, along with the usual serials, film based programmes, and possibly 'reality' shows. How is this feasible?


S. Manjunath said...

India because of its diversity and vastness has a varied taste of viewers and it becomes difficult for the national tv to cover these diversified taste. Where as for the regional channels, it becomes very easy to identify the tastes of the viewers and target. Moreover, I believe national TV is majorly confined to metros and people where hindi is dominant. And, also if you notice, national news channels are coming up with regional news channels to cover the regional taste.

sri said...

I don't think that regional TV is any better than national TV. Both are quite bad IMO (national TV was really good a decade ago when the skies opened, but today it is a different story).

The only kind of regional channels I can watch and understand usually feature programs where people are far too smug and act morally superior for my comfort level. I wish I'd see them taking on some real challenges and would like to see them unsure, doubtful and unsettled just so that they're more human.

In fact, in one "reality" show that featured a panel debate on a current issue of church attacks (modeled on Barkha Dutt's "We the people") on a regional channel; the anchor person was actually screaming and looked like he's going to have a nervous breakdown.

The there is this program of a quiz program for "talented children" from rural areas. The kind of approach that is taken and questions that are asked are hopelessly in the wrong direction, IMO. Rather than nurturing talent, the program simply serves to either stroke or bruise egos of the young minds.

Regional channels have more variety, yes. Quality, no. IMO.

Sanket said...

Manjunath: I suppose what you say is valid. But even then, don't you think the regional channels also face similar difficulties regarding varied tastes within a region? After all, the only barrier that does not exist for them is that of language. Sure, national TV is targeted towards cities. But people in cities watch a lot of regional TV also. I remember an instance where an episode of a popular Kannada serial called 'Mukta' was retelecast because there was a power outage in parts of Bangalore!

Sri: I guess our individual perceptions depend on what we like to watch and/or what we come across when we get the time to watch. But let me be more specific. As far as national TV is concerned, the major programming is in one of the following classes (1) serials (2) films or film based (3) talent hunt shows (where the central focus is anything but the specific talent that the programme boasts of hunting) (4) reality shows. I am sure a lot of people watch these and I have no complaints there. But there also a lot of people who are not interested in these. For such people, there is hardly anything that national TV offers. Even the people that watch these programmes can hardly relate to anything on TV. And the channels have all 'matured' to such an extent that the menu is standard across all channels. If you don't like a programme and switch to another channel, you will find that channel version of the same programme.

OTOH, there's a perceptible difference across different regional channels. Sure, most of them try to emulate national TV and are equally bad. But not all. As far as Kannada is concerned, many programmes in ETV and DD9 are noticeable. There are some music related shows on ETV, where the focus is on music. And I can recollect some travel programmes I had watched on DD9 (well, the govt. channel) not long ago that were very good. Again, the focus of the programme was actually about the place, and the important landmarks there, and not on what the anchor ate or drank, where s/he stayed and what s/he bought there (typical of travel shows on national TV). When they showed places of architectural importance, the show in depth about the architecture. And it was mostly voiceover with the anchor coming in rarely only to give some additional details. And in segments of the show, all they did was to just show the place with good camera work without even talking! To me all this was a very refreshing and totally different experience from popular travel shows in lifestyle channels.

I can give other examples also. Well, not everyone will be interested in music or travel or something else, but at least there is a representation for people whose interests don't match with ones I had mentioned in the beginning.

Of course, the analyses of political and social issues etc. are poor. They are worsened by trying to model popular shows on national news channels. But the serials, despite their posturing, self righteousness and flaws in depicting social issues, are at least socially aware. They provide at least a starting point for some people. Some people can relate to what they are watching. This is simply not there on national TV.

Finally, there are some good channels on national TV -- DD-India, Loksabha channel (it has some good movies and discussions about various topics). But none of them are popular, and most, if not all, belong to the government ;)

Sids said...

I have myself noticed the stark difference in variety between regional language TV channels and the national TV channels. Some (like a few music talent programmes) on regional language TV channels are indeed of better quality too.

One of the reasons for such differences could be due to the way these channels define "success." A national TV channel is considered successful only if it can reach a large enough portion of the audience; advertisers are not willing to pay the big bucks to reach just a few people. Consequently, national TV channels tend to cater only to the majority.

A regional language TV channel needs to reach far fewer people to be deemed successful; this can probably be traced to a couple of reasons: lower costs and existence of regional advertisers who are willing to pay to reach a niche.

The difference is quite like the difference between large corporations and startups/small companies. The former tend to be slothful and catering to the "masses" while the later are capable of being agile and more prepared to try different things.

bvamkris said...

Made feasible by advertising?