Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 32-33 (April 1999) p. 87.


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Imagining an Audience:

Doordarshan and Women's Programming

D Jayasree Kalathil

This paper attempts to examine the objectives that a state-run television network like the Doordarshan (DD) lays out for itself with regard to producing programmes for women. It proposes to make an overview of the programmes and some of their critiques that have arisen from different perspectives. These critiques, as shall be shown in the course of the paper, tend to treat the programmes as individual texts and do not often place them in the context of the various ideologies that go into making DD an institution in its own right. Concentrating on the women's programmes on DD and women as audience, I will attempt to make some suggestions about the ways in which DD "produces'7 an audience.

From the time TV came to India in 1958, it was promoted with a scientific interest in education of the people and development of the country through "dissemination of information." In 1967, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai led the experimental broadcasting of agricultural programmes for farmers around Delhi. The result of the experiment, which showed an increase in awareness and change in attitude towards farming methods, triggered off the enthusiasm for using TV as a medium for developmental communication. The 1969 speech of Dr. Sarabhai upheld the credibility and persuasiveness of TV as a medium for conveying information and news to the broad masses of the people, particularly to the illiterate. With the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) in 1975-76, Doordarshan started broadcasting programmes on "social education" in five different languages in the evenings and educational programmes in the mornings. The evaluation of the experiment which ended in July 1976 resulted in admissions of "having gone wrong" and concluded that DD's objectives of reaching and teaching the vast masses of illiterate rural people had remained only a partially fulfilled dream.

The 1985 report of the Working Group on Software for Indian Television, with Dr. P.C. Joshi as chairperson, identified one of the major flaws in DD's functioning as its continued existence as a system of "distribution" rather than of "communication." Quoting Bertolt Brecht, the working group emphasized the need for a new production style which would know "how to receive as well as transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring

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