Kalaignar TV makes its debut

BY MAYA RANGANATHAN| IN Regional Media | 17/09/2007
With DMK launching its own propaganda organ, Sun TV is moving towards greater credibility and objectivity in its news.

Maya Ranganathan

Chennai: In media-saturated Tamil Nadu, one more TV channel would have almost seemed routine but for the hype and the circumstances that lead to its birth. Kalaignar TV that hit the small screen on Sept 15, on the auspicious day of Ganesh Chathurthi, seems to have generously borrowed men (women too) and matters from all the other channels that are already jostling for the distracted Tamil viewer¿s attention!

It was the till-then faithful Sun TV¿s supposed turnaround in early May that prompted the angry old patriarch, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, to announce the setting up of a channel that would highlight the achievements of his government. The days since then have been marked by the names of those at the helm being bandied about in the press, as well as of acquisitions and new programmes planned.

But Kalaignar TV, in the two days since it has beamed into Tamil homes, has offered nothing new. It observed Ganesh Chathurthi with a surfeit of films and film-based programmes much like the other channels did, except that on offer on Kalaignar TV on Saturday and Sunday were the latest hit movies and stars. Thus, ¿Mozhi¿ and ¿23avadhu pulikesi¿ that ran to full houses just months ago, were telecast in between advertisements on the inaugural day. The traditional arts that CM¿s daughter Kanimozhi promoted to launch herself into the Rajya Sabha were nowhere in sight on Kaliagnar TV.

All other programmes, special and not-so-special in the first two days, were mere adaptations of the popular ones that are running on other channels. Even the compé²¥s and news readers are those drawn from competitors, Sun and Jaya TV. The few differences that mark the channel are the ¿pure¿ Tamil terms that are used to signify the old programmes,  and the never-ending array of advertisements and commercials.

True to its name, the channel seems to have taken on the role of the mouthpiece of the Kalaignar government, not withstanding the mention that AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa got in the first day¿s news, timed to clash with Jaya TV¿s news telecasts. The half-hour news capsules also seem to lean more towards feature stories based on Tamil culture and heritage. But does it reflect the ideologies of the ruling DMK?

Hard to tell! For one, ideologies are no longer easy to discern in the Tamil Nadu political firmament. For another, even in its nascent days, Kalaignar TV seems to be caught in the money-or-matter dilemma. The mega serials or the ¿nedunthodar¿ as the channel terms it, to go on air from Monday, all seem to adopt the well-tested formula of depicting the lives of suffering women. And even the actors in the lead roles are those who have already milked viewers lachrymal glands dry - Devayani (the ¿Kolangal¿ heroine) and Kushboo (of ¿Kalki¿ fame!) The only concession that seems to have been made to the DMK¿s ideology if at all is the incorporation of the film ¿Periyar¿ in the bouquet of films offered in the inaugural weekend!

The birth of Kalaignar TV has however, led to a recasting of Sun TV¿s role. Out of the DMK¿s favours, it seems to have realized that it need no longer function as a propaganda organ. Since the days after May 9, when all their efforts to patch up with their grandfather failed, the Marans have slowly, but steadily moved, towards objectivity in news. Erstwhile untouchables - Jayalalithaa, Vaiko, Vijayakanth, Vijaya T Rajender - are now regulars in Sun news so much so that among all the Tamil channels, Sun is emerging as most reliable! Goes to show yet again the inextricable links between media and politics in Tamil Nadu. While politicians scramble for media attention, and media plays politics, it is the Tamil viewer who has the last laugh!

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