By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Monday, December 3, 2012

India : Infant TV vs. Instant TV

Unlike mobile cellular telephones  --  which have made amazingly rapid progress in India in recent years in terms of  both physical growth and technological innovations --  television had taken a long time in the second half of the 20th century to take roots in India, achieve impressive growth, diversify its concerns, and catch up with supersystems (like instant international telecasts) which had materialized in Europe and America long ago.

In the 1970s, when Doordarshan (which I liked to call Delhivision in a humorous vein) was struggling to overcome tough initial constraints of resources and organization in the Capital city New Delhi, the new tribe of professional TV critics tended to be rather merciless in their reviews. 

But as an articulate layman writing in the solitary evening newspaper (which, by the way, used to attract the attention of readers of all the morning papers!), I always tried to see things in a sympathetic light, and often raved about the genuine thrill I felt when viewing some of the programs:

Evening News, New Delhi
10 August 1975

TV Strides : Not A Bad Beginning!

I had my first glimpse of television in a Bombay exhibition organized by Philips in 1955.
A man's face appeared on a closed-circuit TV screen and stayed there for a few minutes.  We were told that he was in some other room in the same building.
Millions of Americans might have got used to television by 1955, but the feeling of wonder which that demonstration induced in the educated Indian audience is still fresh in my memory.

So many years later, watching TV for hours at a stretch in my own living room, I don't usually feel moved by any grand technological visions. 
Rather, I tend to feel concerned about such matter-of-fact things as double images and transmission faults, the length of this program and the presentation of that one, or the exorbitant fee charged by TV mechanics. 
Even now, however, there are certain magic moments when I do recapture something of that old feeling of sheer amazement. 
This happens whenever an actuality of national or global significance comes to life on the TV screen almost immediately  --  at  any rate before the newspapers  have come out with their first editorial comments.
Watching the 1972 Olympics day after day in my New Delhi apartment within 60 hours after their being played in Munich, I couldn't help reflecting a little on the marvelous strides which communication media were making in our own country.

Mind you, cameos like those  couldn't have reinforced the mood of the moment if they had been televised a week after the events.

I remember once seeing a full-length, wide-screen color movie on Nehru's tour of Russia a few weeks after his return to India.  But admirable as that film was. I think my thrill would have been far greater if I had seen it in portions within a day or two of the scenes being shot, even if only on a small black-and-white TV screen.

It is obvious that the most fascinating thing about television is its ability to rush you visually to the scene of events faster than any other medium.

In India, live satellite TV is already an experimental reality, with 2300 village audiences being able to have a glimpse of the whole country and its many-sided culture.
I read a news item the other day that India has gifted a direct-reception satellite television set to Arthur Clarke, the science-fiction writer who first dreamed up satellite TV.  Clarke has his home in Sri Lanka where the reception of our TV programs is expected to be good.
Another report says that Sweden has asked for a receiver which will be used in Geneva to tap our satellite TV programs.
All this whets my appetite for the TV equivalent of the short-wave radio.  Maybe some day we shall be able to switch on London, Paris. New York , Moscow or Rome on our television sets, just as we tune to radio stations located in those distant places.
Maybe it will take us a long time yet to bring instant televisual news from far away to our masses, but we have made a beginning and it doesn't look bad at all!

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