Television and popular culture

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tvIn the present, TV perhaps best represents popular culture in India. The sheer numbers set it apart from any other form cultural expressions. The traditional forms of popular culture have been tokenised displayed in ‘Festivals’ and tourist fairs. Print culture is though thriving, has conceded the edge to TV long back. Cinema, despite the resurgence through multiplexes in cities can’t flex its muscles faced with the popularity of TV. Thus, as far as consumption, involvement and sheer magnitude of production is concerned no cultural production today matches that of TV.

Does TV represent popular culture truly? I think this question is rather innocent. We can hardly think that a medium can be ‘true’ representative considering the fact that there are a variety of manipulations. What I call manipulation here is the mechanism by which in a society people are drawn into doing something and believing that they are doing something. Now, as far as TV is concerned we are led to believe that what appears on TV is actually what the people want on TV. So popular programmes are liked by a majority – this is an illusion the mechanism creates as it keep calling people into becoming the consumers of the programmes.

The shifting popularity of programmes is an indication that something more than popular taste is involved in the deciding the dominant TV shows. There was a time when countdown shows were primetime. Then the quiz game shows. Then there was a period of K-series. Then came the turn of the laughter shows. Then that of the singing competitions. Currently, I guess it reality shows. I might be speaking too late. May be adventure shows have taken over.

How should we appreciate the TV culture? Surly the dismissive attitude is the least suitable as much as an innocent trust in the self-claims of the industry. We have to admit that TV today has unparalleled following. It has become an industry that can affect the GDP considering that it is not concentrated in one city or so. Almost in each linguistic state of India there is a boom. There is big population that is improving its economy through this media. TV provides livelihood to perhaps as many people as IT does, certainly to more people than BT does. Fortunately these opportunities are open to people of various backgrounds and caste-communities in each TV industry.

Thus the TV economy has to be seen as a base and we have to look for the superstructure as it were. What we see on the TV monitor is only one part of the culture we are talking about. Apart from the kind of stories told on the TV, the kind of stories TV creates in the lives of people is very important. TV has come to shape certain social relations, not only lifestyle. This leads to the way society function. Hence, TV can be considered to represent culture.

Like school essays, we may be tempted to talk of the merits and demerits of TV. That is not my take here. I am interested in understanding the status of TV as popular culture. In doing so, I don’t want to limit myself to what comes to be telecast but take into account the lives shaped by the TV industry.

I think considering the status of TV as popular culture we got to think of the following:

* The economy it has put in place

* The breadth of social participation in this economy

* Does it enable social mobility for people of various classes?

* Does it give rise to new forms of living?

* Does it challenge / dismantle earlier forms of social relations/lifestyles?

* Does it weave into its fabric pre-existing cultural forms?

* Does it alter / replace/ kill other cultural forms?

Well, you want to add more? Do tell me.

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