Television

AUNTY SUSHMA TAKES CENTRESTAGE

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 The new Indian information and broadcasting Sushma Swaraj seems hell-bent on earning that sobriquet. Reason: not even two days into the job and she is already talking of cleaning up Indian television. DTH, the amended cable TV act, the Prasar Bharati - all these were being looked at by her afresh and it would take her a couple of weeks to make up her mind about anything, the lady said.

But for the nonce, "TV is a family medium," she said to journalists yesterday. "And my priority will be to make it that. My ministry's job will be to ensure that it is carried out."

Extremely noble thoughts. But wasn't the government supposed to set up an independent regulatory authority along with a watchdog for this very purpose? Why is the minister and her ministry coming to the forefront on this issue? A government playing conscience keeper makes for a very eerie scenario. Who knows where when the fundamentalists in the BJP may forget where the morality lines and where they begin, and whether what works well for DD works well for private satellite channels too?

Swaraj on her part tends to posture a lot. During her earlier term she ranted and raved against the former Prasar Bharati chief M.S. Gill and eventually had him sacked by reverting the pubcaster to government control and reducing the age limit that the CEO could run it. At the same time she screamed against the obscenity on Indian television, saying she would have heads roll. But she did very little about it. Additionally, she drew up what would become a phased policy on uplinking, opening up uplinking to even foreign companies from Indian soil. She also allowed foreign ad agencies to own Indian ad agencies.

Swaraj seems to want to appear to be a cross old Aunt, but one who is jolly good at heart. Just a bit like Uncle George in Dennis the Menace comics. She will surely give some executives in foreign channels heart burn. In the long run however she should turn out all right. That's if she survives her full term.

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