Tuesday, May 16, 2006

DMK Victory - Manufacturing Manufacturing Consent

Now that the DMK has come back to power, it would be keen to fulfill its promise of free Colour TV with cable connection. While giving colour TV would not be much of a problem (atleast logistically), the cable connection could prove to be a tricky issue.

The Government could start a state-owned service provider. But if it does, then I am sure it would not be allowed to compete with other providers as Kalanidhi Maran owned Multi System Operator (MSO) Kal Cables Private Limited would take a beating with the low pricing of the state-owned service provider. If the state-owned service provider is to provide service exclusively to those households which got the free TV, then it would be a perpetual loss-making organization, which no modern fiscal-deficit-conscious Government would be ready to bear.

They could alternatively consider the telecom way of dividing the state into circles and floating tenders for license with a rider that the Government-specified households should be given free service. This too the Government would reject as there is every possibility that Jaya TV would garner substantial licenses. Also what about those circles which are financially unviable?

So what I figure out is that the Government would go for the DTH option. The State-owned DD Direct would be a non-controversial choice and since DD Direct also beams more than a dozen private channels, the DMK Government could pass it off for something as good as a cable TV. The biggest advantage would be that since DD Direct is free (you only pay for the set-top box), the whole investment would be a one-time affair.

So far, so good. But things don’t seem to be as good as they look. When I checked out the DD Direct FAQs, I found that Sun TV is the only Tamil Channel in the offing. Of course, people wouldn’t complain because Tamilians equate Tamil satellite television to Sun TV as the others have extremely pathetic content. Jaya TV was trying to spruce up, but I find that Sun TV as too deeply ingrained in the Tamilian psyche to be dislodged by Jaya TV.

With this, for the first time in the history of Indian television, we would have a channel which has 100% reach. With such a reach, their advertising revenues and stock prices would go to unimaginable heights.

Now look at the grip DMK will get out of this. Literally every household in TN will now watch Sun TV. By the time the alternative sources of news like newspapers reach, they would have a whole 12 hours (considering the earliest eveninger and discounting radio) to inject into people not just their news, but also their views. So when Jayalalitha returns after 5 years (that is obvious) and decides to arrest Karunanidhi ( this is more obvious than the previous one), you would find the whole state being burnt by a frenzy mob ignited by the DMK cadre and fuelled by the Sun TV’s doctored news. For that matter, they can do this for any of their needs.

In case, DMK manages to get another term, then the state would be another West Bengal in the making where people since their infancy would be brainwashed with DMK’s ‘contribution to TN’ and oppositions’ failures. Every kid would grow up thinking Jayalalitha as a corrupt lady who owns stories of sandals, saris and silver, while Karunanidhi was the crusader who was fought against impostion of Hindi., emergency and Jayalalithaa’s cruel mid-night arrests.

Combine this with other facts, Maran’s newspaper acquisitions, Eveninger Tamizh Murasu and a daily, Dinakaran with a predatory Re 1 pricing. Add to this the rumor of his desire to acquire 33% stake in Tata-DTH. à la Manufacturing Consent in the making.

In a single move, Karunanidhi and subsequently the Marans (they have shrewdly marginalized Stalin who might end up as the former next CM) have captured power, money and control. All this under the disguise of sincere fulfillment of a pro-poor election promise. Whoever said that the DMK manifesto was the real hero of the DMK’s success, would do well to give the due credit to the script writer for such a Kautilyan plot.

At 83, Kalaignar rocks !!!