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The Politics of Tamil Television:The Changing Contours of Control

The relationship between politics and media in Tamil Nadu is no doubt an unique one with a chequered history spanning several decades. Beginning with the rise of the self-respect movement during the 1920s, political communication in Tamil Nadu has been prospering remarkably well, thanks to the clever use of the medium that defines every age. In matters of politics, the age of newspapers during the 1920s and 1930s was quickly overshadowed by the age of cinema during the 1950s. The age of cinema defined political communication until the 1970s in a remarkable manner and continues to espouse the political cause through the re-runs of MGR films whenever elections are held in Tamil Nadu.

The advent of Sun TV and later Jaya TV during the 1990s and their overt pitching of political affiliations to DMK and AIADMK respectively took political communication to new heights even as it made matters worse for the emergence of a professional television environment in Tamil Nadu.

sunnetwork.jpg logo.jpg channel_icon.png kalaignartv_15092007.jpgFor those who are not in the know of the media turf in Tamil Nadu, here are some basic facts of the political economy of television. During 1950s and 1960s, Tamil Nadu had the unique distinction of being the only Indian state (and probably the only democratic space in the world) having political party-sponsored films. In 2007, Tamil Nadu can claim the distinction of having political parties-sponsored television channels.

Sun TV was started in 1993 by the son of Mr ‘Murasoli’ Maran (1934-2004), Mr Kalanidhi Maran. Mr ‘Murasoli’ Maran was a nephew of Kalaignar M Karunanidhi and a former Union Cabinet Minister. ‘Murasoli’ Maran’s contribution to the political propaganda machinery of DMK can be traced to his career as a script writer for Tamil films which also doubled up as vehicles of party ideology in an implicit manner. He edited the DMK party newspaper ‘Murasoli’ and published a slew of general news magazines. He was a well endowed parliamentarian for 36 years and won raves for his performance as Union Commerce Minister at the time of the Doha round of WTO in 2001. He was also believed to be the closest among his relatives to the heart of his uncle, Kalaignar M Karunanidhi. The origin of Sun TV has its contexts equally in the political backgrounds of his father and his uncle as in the entrepreneurial acumen of ‘Murasoli’ Maran’s son, Kalanidhi Maran, the founder and CEO Sun TV. Kalanidhi Maran’s Sun TV media group controls the television landscape in south India through 20 television channels in Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu. The group also controls nearly 70% of the cable television market in Tamil Nadu through its cable company, SCV (Sumangali Cable Vision). The announcement on August 11, 2007 by the Tamil Nadu Government floating the Tamil Nadu Government Cable Corporation as a MSO is alleged to be an an attempt to checkmate the monopoly of SCV and the apprehensions regarding the obstacles such a monopoly can pose to the Kalaignar TV. The case of Jaya TV is no different as a channel sponsored by a political party even though it is not as big as a media empire as Sun TV group. Started in August 1999, the channel has been run by the family of Ms Sasikala, the friend of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Selvi J Jayalalitha.

Not be outdone by the two major Dravidian parties in the games of politics Tamil television is capable of playing, PMK (Pattali Makkal Katchi or the ‘Party of the Downtrodden’) started its television channel on September 01,2006 and christened it Makkal TV (People’s TV). The channel was inaugurated and blessed by Kalaignar M Karunanidhi. True to the ideology and campaigns of the founder of the party, Dr Ramadoss, Makkal TV seeks to be different from the run of the mill Tamil television channels and eschews completely the use of English-laced Tamil words, film-based programmes and serials soaked in violence and vengeful plots. It is seeking to prove that a television channel can run its course successfully without recourse to the above. Makkal TV was the second channel after Sun TV to carry his blessings.There are reports of a few more political channels waiting in their wings. Two channels are slated for launch by two functionaries of the Congress party.

15 comments

1 M.Panneerselvam { 12.17.07 at 4:15 pm }

MakkalTV is the one of the best television in the southern states and also countrywide it will get national award for social reformation especialy for tamil,through the media.

2 j.h.seethalakshmi { 02.11.08 at 7:48 pm }

sun tv is at the top most position at present.it brings out news of worldwide happenings into small areas also.it is the king of private channels and roll model too

3 PADMAJA LAKSHMUKUMAR { 05.15.08 at 6:43 am }

i watch all tamil news. My favourite tamil newsreader is one and only Shobhana Ravi. I can also read news like Madam Shobana Ravi & everybody who has heard my tamil says that my tamil pronounciation is very good. Can any one help me in joining newsreader profession in tamil channel. Please reply to my email id :-
padmajas@sidbi.com

4 padmajalakshmikumar { 06.03.08 at 6:17 am }

I have sent a CD wherein I have recorded my voice for newsreading in Tamil and reading Tamil script. Please confirm through my email id whether you have recd the same

5 k.adhanilankeeran { 06.07.08 at 6:40 am }

makkal tv is theone of the best telivision.it works successesfully in long ago.it take all programs are very usefull to tamil peoples.

6 Kannan { 09.24.08 at 3:46 am }

The emergence of MakkalTV is truly one for the history books. It makes be proud to be a Tamilian, to say the least. However, I would like to suggest (to the producers) that emphasis on ‘purely tamil’ should encompass the attire as well – men on the show should wear eg. Nehru jackets and white Nehru caps. Place a dress code on attire and add a series on ‘Style India’; to increase your current ratings as well as to add a little spice, perhaps a show along the lines of ‘a makeover’. Dressing smart adds confidence, etc.

7 harinath { 10.03.08 at 5:43 am }

Makkal t.v is my favorite other than masala t.v s.
makkal t.v is not for profit only for tamilians.

8 Usha { 10.10.08 at 1:20 pm }

Vijay TV is the best tamil channel.

9 nijam { 10.11.08 at 6:01 am }

first of them all I would like to thanks Dr.Ramadas and the staffs of the makkal tv for the best effort not only in tamil channel history almost in world tv channel history.come on buddies keep going on.

10 Kadirvel { 11.16.08 at 5:24 am }

Nowadays, I like the Tamil DD News reading of Vijayakrishna, excellent pronounciation, look, clarity and reads casually without stiffness. We understand the news with authority. News Readers like Vijayakrishna in DD Podhigai should come in other Channels also.

11 Suguna { 11.16.08 at 5:27 am }

Yes. I also like the reading of Vijayakrishna, the Tamil News Reader in Podhigai TV of Doordarshan, Chennai. Excellent News Reader. Charming hair style and look. His dress with special colours are attractive. Vijayakrishna is like a mix of Senthamizh Arasu, Tamilanban and Varadarajan. OK.

12 Wilson Prabhu { 11.16.08 at 5:30 am }

The name of the News Reader is Vijayakrishnan not Vijayakrishna. Am I correct. My family members also love the news reading of Vijayakrishnan in Podhigai DD Tamil News of Doordarshan, Chennai.

13 dharmaraj { 03.23.09 at 5:11 pm }

makkal telivision is best telivision in tamil. its very usefull for all pepoles, i realy whish this telivision, vazhga tamizh,

vazhga maruthuvar ramadasu ayya.

14 R.Suresh Kumar { 07.10.09 at 9:44 pm }

After reading various opinions about the news presentation in tamil sat channels, i really feel sorry for the profession. There is no proper guidance, training, quality control, or even the basic eligibility, no attractive payment, and now with too many mushroom tvs competing among themselves. There is no feed back also for the news presenters to know about their performance, either from the public or from the organisation. There is no motivation to news presenters like awards and rewards for the best performers, to bring out the best outcome. There is no association for them, there is no job security for them. No one is a permanent employee anywhere. Most of them do it as a hobby. No good treatment, no motivation, no feedback, no security… so NO QUALITY…. When people react to poor performers in news, and protest against tamil killers.. all these will come to an end.

15 BALAMURUGAN { 01.18.10 at 3:30 am }

makkal TV is the best tv in tamil tv’s. We learn more tamil word when watching this tv. very tanks to Dr.ramdoss and his team.

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