Doordarshan may be struggling to retain audiences back home but it has at least one loyal viewer in China and she’s a fan of Hum Log.
The slide on Hum Log, India’s first television soap in the eighties, surprised the small group of Indians and Chinese listening on Wednesday to Liu Chen compare the history of Doordarshan with the mega-budget propaganda machine China Central Television (CCTV) which has over 1.2 billion viewers.
Liu, a director of the Centre for Intercultural Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University, has been watching DD English news for at least ten years to study the two broadcaster’s role in beaming ‘national image’ since their launch in 1958-59. She jogged our memories of Hum Log with a glowing approval of its ‘family planning propaganda’ and marriage values.
The Indian audience was rather startled to hear her enamored take on Doordarshan, which almost ignored the role of India’s vast and competitive print and television media. “Indians have more alternative sources to see the truth,’’ the speaker admitted in the interactive session. “In China, this revolution will be gradual. We have a different cultural background.’’
Her steadfast take on the state as a ‘guardian and communicator’ of national image also reflected why China, where even US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao get censored, is struggling to make sense of the Indian media’s ‘negative’ coverage on bilateral issues.
When Chinese officials meet an Indian reporter, they often ask why the Indian government can’t control negative news.
While Beijing is pouring billions in going global, it is tightening controls on reporting politically sensitive news at home. Last week, the Communist Party's news agency Xinhua opened a new North America office on the 44th floor of 1540 Broadway. The agency described its Times Square address as ‘a spectacular spot in this centre-stage of world-class media’. Earlier this year, Beijing hammered Times Square 8,400 times with a slick propaganda video of Chinese celebrities and ordinary citizens.
CCTV, which last year opened a regional centre in Dubai, has at least one thing in common with Doordarshan. Its young urban audiences are drifting away. The Chinese today prefer breaking news on micro-blogs — over 100 million of them.