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Monday, October 12, 2009

Satellite Over South Asia

We live in a world where the here and now preoccupy our consciousness. We tend to move forward, forgetting – or trying to forget – our past. There never is any particular reason for this attitude or behaviour.
Mostly, it stems from the instinct to survive and adapt to a new reality that emerges in our lives. Then, after a while, we sit back and reflect. We remember a particular phase of our lives and feel both happy and sad. Happy to have lived through that phase and sad because it’s over.
To reconnect with old friends is always a pleasure. Doing so with William was no exception. Many, many years ago, when I was young, I worked on an interesting South Asia-wide project led by Dr. David Page and Dr. William Crawley, former BBC journalists-turned-academics.
This Ford Foundation project – called Media South Asia – brought together journalists, academics, filmmakers, writers, activists and other professionals from South Asian countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka – to study the impact of satellite television across the Indian subcontinent. The Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, Britain, was one of the sponsors of the project.
Satellite television broadcasts that started with Gulf War I in 1991 had by the end of the 1990’s revolutionised South Asian societies. David Page and William Crawley put together an interesting team that researched the impact – social, economic, political and cultural – of satellite television revolution in that region.
I was involved with researching the impact of advertising on broadcasting in general and on programming in particular. The research involved interviewing advertisers (company officials who take decisions on where to put advertising resources), advertising professionals; market research professionals; ratings company professionals; broadcasters. During that period, I met the who’s who of India’s television and advertising world.
The final presentations by the researchers were in Kathmandu and the book launch was held in New Delhi. The first phase of their research resulted in a book – Satellites over South Asia. Their research continues, more than a decade after they started the project. My work forms the basis of the chapter The Lure of the Indian Markets in the book.
For me, the associations made during that research have lasted a long time; not just with the two coordinators David and William, but also with co-researchers such as litterateur Nilu Damle and filmmaker Deepa Bhatia.
With Nilu I also worked on another project – Grassroots Anti-corruption Initiatives and the Right to Information Movement in India – for the IDS. Robert Jenkins and Anne Marie Goetz coordinated this project.
Deepa did a brilliant interview with filmmaker Govind Nihalani for The Quarterly Journal of Opinion – an online magazine that I started with the help of a few then close friends. She also convinced her awesomely talented husband Amol Gupte who is an actor, writer, TV host to sketch for the online quarterly.
In Toronto, I accidentally met Afsan Chowdhury who worked on analysing the impact of satellite television on Bangladesh.
I exchanged email messages with William Crawley recently. He told me the Media South Asia project is now working on broadcasting regulations in Sri Lanka.
I wish David and William the very best.

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