‘Ravana’s Air Force’: Politics, Capitalism and India’s TV Revolution



Nalin Mehta, Visiting Senior Fellow, Asia Research Institute and Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore


Seminar Room A, HC Coombs Building (9), Fellows Road, ANU


Thursday, 8 November, 2012 - 12:30 to 14:00

With over 800 television channels, India is not only the world's third largest television market but also its most varied. Operating at the junction of politics, capitalism and globalisation, the Indian satellite television industry, has expanded at an astonishingly fast rate since the collapse of state monopoly over broadcasting in the 1990s, affecting major changes in political cultures, the state and expression of Indian nationhood. For the past decade, the industry itself has been defined by an upward trend of continuous growth: in viewership numbers, revenues and advertising – and equally with a severe crisis of content across genres.

Overall, Indian television is beset by three fundamental challenges: a failure to evolve a comprehensive system of regulation, the increasing political control of regional television channels and distribution networks and a structural problem with its business model and delivery platforms, which is reflected in problems over quality of content.

This paper analyses the ownership patterns in Indian television at the national and regional levels, within a comparative international perspective; the business models of TV networks and what this means for content; the problem of the regulatory mechanisms around the industry as well as recent moves towards self-regulation; and finally the impact of recent legislative moves towards digitisation. Tracing the broad trajectory of India’s satellite television revolution over the past decade, it discusses what the expansion of the television industry means for Indian politics, public culture and democracy.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER Dr Nalin Mehta is Visiting Senior Fellow at Asia Research Institute and Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore and Joint Editor of the international journal South Asian History and Culture (Routledge) as well as the Routledge ‘South Asian History and Culture’ book series. An award-wining writer and scholar, he has published widely on the evolution and impact of media industries, the processes driving political change and sport history. His books include India on Television: How Satellite Channels Have Changed the Way We Think and Act (winner of the 2009 Asian Publishing Award), the best-selling Sellotape Legacy: Delhi and the Commonwealth Games, with Boria Majumdar; and a critically acclaimed social history of Indian sport, Olympics: The India Story. He has edited Television in India: Satellites, Politics and Cultural Change, co-edited Gujarat Beyond Gandhi: Identity, Conflict and Society, with Mona G. Mehta; and The Changing Face of Cricket: From Imperial to Global Game, with Jon Gemmell and Dominic Malcolm. Mehta has been a senior analyst with the UN and the Global Fund in Geneva, Switzerland, for the past four years and has previously been a Fellow of the Australian National University, Canberra, La Trobe University, Melbourne, and the International Olympics Museum, Lausanne. He started his career as a political journalist with NDTV and was Deputy News Editor and anchor at Times Now. A DFID-Commonwealth scholar, he received his PhD from La Trobe University, Melbourne; MA in International Relations from the University of East Anglia, UK; and BA (Honours) Journalism from the University of Delhi.




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