It’s party time for media

On the face of it, it looks quite ironical that the idiot box should catch the imagination of our super-intelligent rationalists. But thanks to enterprising grand-nephews and their not-so-entertaining mischiefs, every rationalist worth the towel on his torso seems to have now come alive to the possibilities that a ‘kept’ media on air offers to their political prospects. So, with the Sun now setting on the DMK horizon, it’s time for the launch of another satellite to light up and brighten the lives of the leaders and co-borns alike. Aah, all those free TVs were after all worth the expense, to the public exchequer though! What foresight dark glasses can bestow on you!

And having been bitten once, no risks this time around: the channel will likely be called ‘Kalaingar TV’, safe and secure, and quite straight, at that. After all, Jayalalithaa was a lot smarter in naming her satellite mouthpiece after herself without any pretensions about its political as well as personal affiliations. Two Leaves TV? …perish the idea! But, the Kalaingar, in trying to seem suave and subtle, initially believed that a veil of neutrality would help his cause better. So, even when the Sun shone from the Arivalayam, the mirage of a distance was maintained. And the charade went by that script till M Maran was alive. But with D and K Marans developing political and commercial ambitions respectively on their own, the script went awry, much to the chagrin of the celebrated script-writer. To his dismay, the mirage materialised and so the show has to end, having lost its sheen. Sorry for the break, Sun!

Of course, while Kalaingar TV is as close to Karunanidhi as one can get (why not Periyar TV or Anna TV …no, let’s not get rational), the CM has also assured its future audience that the channel would be ‘professionally run and would meet the aspirations of the people’. We thought the latter was the job of an elected government, not that of a private TV channel, but we will let that pass. We will also ignore the contradiction of the CM waxing eloquent on the new project and saying it has nothing to do with the DMK in the same breath. We will, instead, worry over the burning question on our lips: How will K…r TV meet the people’s aspirations? Simple. By undoing the injustice done by Sun! To the people? To the family, stupid! Stalin and Kanimozhi, having been systematically blacked out by the scheming nephews, will now get their due on Dad’s own DD. And the hot blooded Azhagiri? A survey, for sure, which will prove beyond doubt that A is the most worshipped, loved and revered character in Madurai and thereabouts, next only to Meenakshi! On second thoughts, let’s keep her out for we can’t risk damage to that hoary temple. But I hope, readers and viewers get the drift.

So with people’s problems like hunger, thirst, bad roads, jobs and inflation all set to be settled for posterity with the CM launching a TV channel, his other assurance merits interest. The proposed channel would be run by professionals, we have been told. The CM’s confidence that media ‘professionals’, particularly journos, will be willing to attach themselves to a rank party mouthpiece, is quite a commentary on the media fraternity here. The CM, having just recently reeled out a list of goodies that he had bestowed on scribes , thinks it is payback time; he has already hinted that a team is ready! What an opportunity for true media professionals to display their objectivity and neutrality, albeit under the watchful eyes of the ultimate rationalist. And with publicity-starved partymen pressing for coverage, press freedom is all set to flower and flourish like never before. Between Jaya News and Kalaingar News, the people of TN would be enlightened no end on all they need to know. And what those channels don’t tell us is not worth knowing. Period! How much they have taken the people for granted!

But media has always been a playground of politicians in TN. Press barons becoming ministers and ministers running newspapers is a familiar feature here with questions of credibility rarely surfacing. And with the Government ranking as the single major advertiser in the press and, therefore, in a position to determine a newspaper’s viability, the smart politicos of the State quickly realised both the commercial potential of media and also the usefulness of power to keep the media under leash.Without exception the rulers have been wielding that whip to suit their whims, using government advertisements to either pamper or punish.The newspaper establishments for their part, either out of survival compulsions, competitive instincts or simple commercial greed, have also been guilty of indulging and emboldening the politicos. Nowhere else in the country is this quid pro quo so blatant and the intimidation so open, a fact that even Sun which is feeling the heat now, will vouch for. With not just journos, but also their employers shackled thus, whither press freedom?

Television is a much largr battlefield than print, spanning several planes from beneath the ground to the limitless sky. So, with Kalaingar TV too jumping into the fray with all the force of a furious family behind it, the satellite war is all set to escalate. Everyone in the State, from viewers to sponsors to advertisrs to content providers to business houses to cable operators, will have to now necessarily declare their loyalties. Prime time politics will be a perennial fare on the tube and a lot more murky politics will happen behind the screens too. And all this for the people’s sake!

But what of the unnattached media, the ones who have no party offices to work from or political bosses to report to? After all, it is their birthright to take the readers and viewers for a ride. Do they stand a chance against the politicians who are masters of that game? Beaten on their own turf, should they now dump press freedom as a lost cause and fight for a level ‘fooling field’, instead?

For our part, why not we consider a Talk TV, ie, if readers are willing to become viewers? But should I think of a Talk Kazhagam first?

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Jawahar T R