Making hay as the Sun shines no longer

BY MAYA RANGANATHAN| IN Regional Media | 22/05/2007
With DMK preparing to start its own TV channel, is it becoming mandatory for political parties to own a television channel?

Maya Ranganathan

In the aftermath of the Madurai violence, the political situation in Tamil Nadu is hazy. Going by media reports, the DMK seems to be stunned by Dayanidhi¿s temerity; Dayanidhi seems to be humbled by the DMK¿s reaction and brother Kalanidhi seems to be thinking of nothing but arresting the damage done. But one thing emerges crystal clear: the AIADMK, more precisely Jaya TV is in no hurry to forget, nor let the people of Tamil Nadu forget it all.

The Madurai violence has given Jaya TV and by implication the AIADMK, a most powerful stick to beat the DMK with and particularly its bệte noire the Sun TV. Reminiscent of Sun TV¿s treatment of Jayalalithaa¿s failings in the past, Jaya TV has latched on to the Madurai incidents with a vengeance.

For more than a week running, Jaya TV¿s prime time news faithfully reproduces images of the vandalisation of the Madurai Dinakaran office rounding it off with shots of the kin of the three dead employees beating their breasts and wailing over the dead bodies. And it is no mindless repetition or remembrance. Jaya TV is clearly moving away from the plain propaganda that it reveled in. Taking a leaf out of the Sun TV¿s book, it is pegging on the Madurai violence all acts of omissions and commissions of DMK, its leader and his associates.

It was the indictment of ?the minority DMK government? in the news one day; the criticism of the Chief Minister who attended a felicitation of his golden jubilee year as a legislator ?when Madurai was burning?, the second day; frames of the octogenarian Karunanidhi snapping at press persons in the past unable to answer embarrassing questions followed the visuals of the Madurai violence the third day; a repetition of a spoof highlighting the dynastic politics in the DMK that was published in a popular Tamil newspaper interspersed with the same visuals on the fourth day; a ridiculing of the survey methods followed that triggered it all (the total respondents on that day to the survey added up to 101) on the fifth and the turn around of Sun TV that started off by attributing the vandalism to ?M K Azhagiri¿s rowdies? to downplaying the Madurai incident, now.

Sun TV and Jaya TV are more than mere competitors. They are extension of the political parties that they owe allegiance to sworn enemies. Some of the bitterest political wars in Tamil Nadu have been fought not merely in front of their television cameras but also in their studios.

For the DMK which has always dabbled with the arts and had used newspapers, books and film to propagate its ideals, going on air was a natural progression. When the Indian skies opened in 1991, Tamizh Maalai, a daily entertainment capsule hitherto telecast through the cable TV circuit, emerged as a fully private channel owned by Kalanidhi Maran, aptly called Sun TV. Aided in no small measure by the DMK¿s political clout, the Sun TV has spread to the whole of South and is accessible even as far as North America and Australia. 

Not so for Jaya TV which, as a late starter in 1999, was completely overshadowed by the Sun in its initial years. Goofs and gaffes marked its initial years and it had to wait for Jayalalithaa to come to power to grow significantly when it succeeded in drawing many of the talents from Sun TV. The first was perhaps that of Rabi Bernard, an academic who taught Kalanidhi and had shot to fame for his incisive questions in the weekly Sunday interview called Nerukku Ner in Sun TV.  Perhaps, not willing to forgive Sun TV for its initial successes, Jaya TV continues to draw anchor persons, news readers and even talk show hosts from Sun TV.

It is not clear if the fall-out with the DMK will halt the Marans¿ juggernaut, but the Dayanidhi face-off has brought some dangerous issues concerning media to the fore. It has made it seem mandatory for political parties to own a television channel. Thus, even as political pundits are forecasting the future of DMK without Sun and Sun without DMK, newspapers report of preparations made by the DMK to start its own TV channel. With political feuds spilling out on to the airwaves, it doesn¿t augur well for the average Tamilian who would rather not hobnob with politicians in his living room every day!

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