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When TV became the new political battlefield
E T B Sivapriyan in New Delhi | March 06, 2008 09:48 IST
The 'political war' in the television studios is expected to intensify in Tamil Nadu, where almost all television channels are identified with some political parties, with actor- politician Vijayakanth planning to launch a 24-hour entertainment venture to air his party's views.
The decision by Vijayakanth, founder-leader of Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, to launch a channel comes at a time when political parties in Tamil Nadu are vying with each other to float channels to 'reserve place' in the satellite TV arena -- a sure shot way of reaching the drawing rooms of millions of people.
"Captain (Vijayakanth) has decided to launch a television channel and a fortnightly magazine. We have already started working on it. It will be a 24-hour entertainment channel with news bulletins," L K Sudeesh, party leader and the actor's brother-in-law, told PTI from Chennai.
Almost all the television channels which air news bulletins are identified with some or the other political parties in the state.
"This trend of parties starting television channel is not healthy at all. Tamil Nadu is a peculiar state when it comes to television channels where the political parties have started dominating the TV arena," media analyst Sasikumar told PTI.
Since its launch on September 15, Kalaingar TV, promoted by Chief Minister Karunanidhi's family, has been functioning as the 'mouthpiece' of both Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the DMK government. Jaya TV has long been identified as the official channel of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
The faction-ridden Tamil Nadu Congress Committee has two channels to its credit -- Mega TV floated by party parliamentarian K V Thangabalu and legislator Vasantha Kumar's Vasanth TV -- while the Pattali Makkal Katchi has Makkal TV to air its views.
After the feud between the Marans and DMK's first family, Raj TV -- another leading channel in Tamil Nadu -- too joined the DMK bandwagon and is providing telecast assistance to Karunanidhi's Kalaingar TV.
With the Maran brothers losing out the favour of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, Sun TV [Get Quote], owned by them, has switched 'loyalty' from the DMK and has been giving importance to new entrants in politics like Vijayakanth and another actor-politician Sarath Kumar in its news bulletin, widely watched across South India.
Sudeesh said the new television channel to be launched by this year will have entertainment programmes, serials and news bulletins like any other satellite venture.
"We have been planning to start a television channel since 1995, but due to some or the other reason we could not do it. But, since we have a political party we thought its high time to start a channel of our own," he said.
However, Sasikumar claims that parties use the 'powerful' medium to settle their scores and the common man's right to information is being curtailed.
"They (political parties) fight between them through the channels and certainly people are not the beneficiaries of the media in Tamil Nadu," he said, adding, "It is only the party cadres who benefit from the channels."
"The political colour is not just confined to news bulletins alone but sometimes the hue gets into entertainment content also, which I feel is very bad," Sasikumar said.
Sudeesh also exuded confidence that his channel would be commercially successful.
Vijayakant, who accused the electronic media of being 'biased' in the past, had opposed the state government's recent decision to launch a Cable TV Corporation saying that it would not serve any purpose.
The cable TV war once gain took an ugly turn last month when Sumangali Cable Vision, the Multi System Operator (MSO) arm of Sun TV, protested against the alleged arrest of some of its distributors.
SCV managing director and former Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran charged police with arresting the distributors without any valid reason and said more than 20 cable TV operators of SCV were arrested 'without assigning any reason'.
Raj TV and Jaya TV have served as extension of DMK and AIADMK respectively and fought some bitter political war inside their studios.
While the Jaya TV has launched a 24-hour-news channel and an entertainment channel, the Raj TV is all set to launch a round-the-clock news channel and a music channel.