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Telugu Media Houses::The New Charm Offensive

13-09-2012
Recently, two Telugu media houses launched a charm offensive.

I would like to think that they did what they did to achieve some noble objectives. But, I am afraid, elements that point in a different direction do stick out rather uncomfortably.

NTv set out to raise the patriotism quotient among children in the state. It organized a huge do and made hundreds and thousands of children sing our national anthem.

Naa Desam – Naa Geetham (My Country – My Song) was the title of the initiative.

But it was rolled out on a day which has no national significance – neither political, nor social, nor historical. There was also a half page expensive advertisement in one of the leading English dailies about this initiative on the day. The advertisement also listed all those features which the Channel’s management thought were unique in its menu. The owner’s pic was conspicuous in the ad.

Is it that they had a sudden gush of patriotic fervor, and they could not wait for an appropriate day?

Or was it a barely veiled exercise in building their brand?

The management of another media house, perhaps the biggest in Andhra Pradesh – Eenadu, started an initiative with the noble intention of introducing to the Telugu people the glories of their own language. It has set out to address the concerns that the language is dying and the young ones in the state have come under the spell of English. Saving Telugu language is this media house’s stated mission.

They launched a monthly magazine ‘Telugu Velugu’.

This house owns/owned a number of television channels here in the state as well as elsewhere in the country in several languages, and a slew of publications. It has under its belt the largest circulated Telugu daily newspaper, and other periodicals devoted to humour, literature, cinema, and one even to educate farmers in modern agricultural techniques.

The owner of the Media house spelt out his intentions in a letter circulated to the agents and distributors of its publications. The intentions sound noble. But they are all a throwback to a distant past which is unfamiliar even to today’s middle aged people, leave alone to the younger generation.

It has nothing to persuade anyone who asks the question: Why is it that the largest circulated newspaper and a string of magazines in Telugu owned and successfully run by this media house for over three decades could not generate love and respect for the language among its readers? And how a magazine which might carry writings on the greatness of the language, and appears once a month, can achieve that purpose?

Of course, this house is not as gauche as the other one. It chose an apparently suitable day for the roll out: the birth anniversary of Gidugu Ramamurthy Panthulu, a modernizer of Telugu, which is celebrated as Telugu Language Day. But the magazine has little or nothing of the rebellious modernism that characterized Ramamurthy’s work.

It is hard to believe that these media houses are so naïve as to think that a day of singing national anthem by school kids instills nationalism or a monthly magazine can kindle a sense of respect and pride for their language in a people.

To me both these initiatives looked like their own variety of charm offensive.

But a friend of mine had a point when he said: “Something is being done. And let us appreciate it.”

Unlike me he has modest expectations and is prepared to be content with token gestures and their uncertain benefits.

Maybe I shouldn’t quarrel with him.

I know I am not easily satisfied.

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