November 21 is United Nations World Television Day. Realizing that the major role played by television in presenting global issues affecting people and this needed to be addressed, on December 17, 1996 the UN General Assembly proclaimed November21 as World Television Day. This was to commemorate the date on which the first World Television Forum was held on November 21, 1996. The UN expects “all member states to observe the Day by encouraging global exchanges of television programs focusing, among other things, on issues such as peace, security, economic and social development and cultural change enhancements.” This UN Day is an occasion for evaluating the effectiveness of the medium according to the UN expectations.
In India Doordarshan was started by the government in the All India Radio building [Akashvani Bhavan] in Delhi with a single make-shift studio on an experimental basis on 15 September1959. Today it is run by an “autonomous corporation” with a huge network of 34 satellite channels besides providing free- to -air DTH services having 104 in its bookings with 66 studio centers all over the country, including 17 major studio centers at state capitals and 49 other studio centers located in various cities. With a plethora of commercial TV networks the monopoly of Doordarshan is a thing of the past and is left to compete with them often alleged to be deviating from its public service mandate.
It is unfortunate that, notwithstanding the educational content in some channels, most of the channels are pandering to the lowest common denominator in taste in entertainment and an overwhelming majority of the news channels focus on sensationalism. In their quest for profits and currying favor to political decision makers, time tested journalistic tenets like pursuit of truth, objectivity, balance etc. are rendered obsolete. Such television channels question the role of the media as an effective watchdog and as the fourth estate in a democracy.
The monopoly of Doordarshan was over in the early 1990s with the opening up for liberalization of the Indian economy and our skies were opened up for foreign media, satellite television and Direct to Home television services which offered innumerable choices for television audiences. It is reported that presently there are 902 permitted private satellite television channels in India as of March 2019[en.m.wikipedia.org].
According to a 2018 survey conducted by Broadcast Audience Research Council [Barc] television viewership in the country has gone up by 12% from 2016. There are currently 298 million homes in India out of which 197 million have TV sets. According to the findings, the average time spent by an individual watching TV per day is 3 hours 44minutes.
From the above statistics it is evident that as a medium television definitely has tremendous popularity and power to influence attitudes, public opinion and buying habits. As World Television Day is observed it is worth asking whether such influences are in tune with the objectives with which the United Nations started the Day in 1996. Well, television has succeeded in promoting consumerism and changing lifestyles but seems to have not exactly succeeded in promoting, socio-economic development and of course, peace and security in the world.