The subject of fast food always puts me in mind of a conversation I had with Rupert Murdoch in the Nineties just after he had bought Star TV from Richard Li. I was assigned to interview Murdoch and I asked him what his plans for programming were. Oh, that would be easy, he said. His networks and studios had access to a vast bank of programming. All they needed to do was to dub them into Hindi.
Murdoch was merely repeating the conventional wisdom. At that stage, re-runs of Baywatch in 50 different languages kept the whole world enthralled. A theory had evolved, which said that all good American programming was global. (After all, it was Murdoch who famously said “globalisation is just another word for Americanisation”). You just had to make it language-neutral and it would succeed, no matter which country you showed it in.
I was sceptical of the applicability of this theory to India. We have our own strong popular culture and I could not see Indians crowding around their TV sets to watch Baywatch in Hindi.
As it turned out, Murdoch changed his mind very quickly. It took him a couple of years to realise that Star TV had to be fully Indian (and thank God for that because that is how people like me got into the TV business!) and in a few years, Star was all-Indian, and Star Plus, showing only made-in-India programming, has become the country’s number one channel for what seems like forever. And it is probably Murdoch’s biggest TV operation in the world.
From HT Brunch, November 23
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