Tamil film trade shuts down southern TV

Another war erupts...this time it's the film industry vs the TV. And it's taking place down south.

Tamil film makers have started a round of fisticuffs against regional television channels - Sun TV, Raj TV, Vijay TV and Jaya TV. They have banned south Indian film personalities including stars and even film technicians from giving interviews to TV channels. Three organisations - the producers council, and the distributors and exhibitors associations - say that film artistes should abstain from acting in Tamil television serials appearing on television. They have disallowed TV channels from showing (promotional clips) trailors, clippings and even songs from newly released movies. They add that telecast rights of new movies should not be awarded to these channels for up to five years from their release. The troika wants all these conditions to come into force from early February.

The reason for such a harsh move: the glut of film promotions and star interviews on television has meant that audiences are abandoning cinema halls and are turning into couch potatoes. Because of this the Tamil film industry's box office collections are dropping.

They point out that this trend has become apparent from mid-January when the religious festival of Pongal commenced. Not one of the four blockbusters released on that day has run to a full house, they point out. They say viewers got their fill of their stars sitting comfortably in their homes on television. They want to avert a similar disaster on April 14, which is another auspicious day when a deluge of Tamil films hits cinema halls.

It is known that the TV and film industry go hand in hand. Films are promoted on TV and the TV industry gets its share of the pie on account of the viewership trailors generate. Will the ban continue for long? Will it be supported by the whole Tamil film industry, which already has its foot into the business of producing Tamil software? Will film actors who are already starring in soaps discontinue their acts?

Even Bollywood had gone through a similar convulsion a couple of years ago when the Hindi film industry had stated that film collections were dropping on account of piracy by cable operators. But they had not blamed falling collections to a glut of trailers and interviews on television. In fact, some directors and producers have cleverly used television to drive audiences to theatres. So is the Tamil TV trade missing the wood for the trees?

It is a situation that clearly bears watching.

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