HT THIS DAY: 1959 — Crowds throng to see first TV show

Thousands of men, women and children in Delhi and the adjoining villages witnessed the inauguration through nearly two dozen sets installed by the Government and a commercial concern
A screengrab of the Hindustan Times on September 17, 1959
A screengrab of the Hindustan Times on September 17, 1959
Updated on Sep 16, 2021 08:05 PM IST
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By Staff Correspondent

Television came to India on Tuesday when the President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, formally inaugurated from the auditorium of the Vigyan Bhavan the first TV station set up by All India Radio in New Delhi.

Thousands of men, women and children in Delhi and the adjoining villages witnessed the inauguration through nearly two dozen sets installed by the Government and a commercial concern.

At places the crowds were so thick that those in charge of the installations had a hard time maintaining order. At the Social Education Centre in Paharganj the crowd became unwieldy and all doors had to be closed. Later the police had to be called in to prevent the crowd from crashing in.

Nearly a thousand people witnessed the programme through a set installed at the Community Hall on Panchkuin Road. They sat in pin-drop silence, but when the sound mechanism temporarily stopped functioning, once or twice, they shouted and booed.

Judging from the reactions of the audience, what seemed to have attracted them was the novelty of the show rather than any particular interest in the programme. Some at least expressed great disappointment and said they felt bored. Some wanted more songs and dances than dialogue.” There is too much of talk and little action,” said a middle-aged officegoer who was witnessing the programme along with his wife and two children.

But for two scooter-rickshaw-drivers it was more attractive than business. They refused hirers to listen to the programme.

In his inaugural speech, the President said that the launching of television marked “ a significant stage in the progress of broadcasting and tele-communications in India.”

He said, “I remember what an excitement it caused when broadcasting was introduced in this country. One can well imagine how much more intriguing this new medium of mass contact would be to the common people in India.”

He expressed the hope that television, apart from its cultural value “will go a long way in broadening the popular outlook, and bringing people in line with scientific thinking.”

Welcoming the President, Dr B. V. Keskar, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, said the opening of a television station in the country was “a fitting climax to the all-round and continuous development” of Indian broadcasting.”

Television as a means of mass communication, said Dr Keskar, was decidedly superior and more effectively than radio, because it was audio-visual.

But the Minister cautioned against the medium becoming undesirable at a later stage. “It would be disastrous to allow it to distort the study habits of children,” he said.

Dr Keskar said that because of foreign exchange difficulties, it was possible only to begin television service in the country on a small scale and warned that it might continue to be so for some more time. He, however, held out the hope that it would be possible to expand the service further during the third Five-Year Plan.

Mr J. C. Mathur, Director-General of All India Radio, regretted that the people of Old Delhi were deprived of the facility of viewing television programmes in public as no sets could be installed partly due to technical and partly administrative difficulties.

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Monday, October 25, 2021