Malaysian Television:Its Yesterday Once More



I am of that vintage that I can remember times when we had no TV and finally one channel in the idiot box. This was our good old Doordarshan, now totally neglected, except when they forcefully grab the rights for sports events held in India. There were some good programmes, some extremely boring and the highlight of the programming was the news. I would be guilty of injustice if I failed to mention some serials that they produced which have set benchmarks that today’s saas bahu serials never come close to matching, but, the news was the highlight of the Doordarshan day. Everybody watched Doordarshan news those days. You had no alternative, there was no other channel. The newscasters became famous and I am told that they used to receive love letters and fan mail aplenty. The news however was another thing.
Doordarshan was called, in those days, not without reason, IndiraDarshan. The reason was of course the single minded devotion to the then Prime Minister and her doings. Not that things changed much when she was thrown out in 1977 as then you got saturation coverage of the gerontology that ruled us; and their shenanigans, while more entertaining, were certainly a lot less telegenic than the doings of Mrs Gandhi. Life changed forever in 1991 when CNN first made inroads into India and then there was an explosion of channels, some 500 odd at last count. It amazes me that West Bengal, with no economic development for the past 30 odd years can support more than two dozen Bengali channels, but I suppose somebody must have done their economic sums.
Watching TV in Malaysia is like going back to those days. The channel that I watch most frequently is the NTV7 . It has so many resemblances with the Doordarshan of yore that I sometimes rub my eyes in disbelief. There are serials which nobody except the producers watches. I defy anybody to watch some of these serials, so execrable is the acting and so hackneyed the story line. There are some racy serials from the USA, all two to three seasons late, which are put on and off the air with no advance notice of their advent or departure. There are repeats of programmes that I have watched at least twice before; those who have been in Malaysia longer have probably watched them even more often.
And the news particularly is so reminiscent of the IndiraDarshan days that I crool with delight. Just as in those days the news started with Indira, went on to Sanjay and with a tiny mention of some other bigwigs of the Congress, criticized the doings of the opposition, so does the NTV 7 news start with Mr Najib, the Prime minister, continue with Mr Muhiyuddin , his Deputy and then mention some minor ministers before telling us about the latest scandals regarding he opposition leaders.
This is one thing that distinguishes NTV 7 from our good old DD. In India we are extremely prudish about the private lives of politicians, though we are avid for information about the doings of the Bollywood stars in and outside the marital bed. Here there is no Bollywood, which is perhaps why every week there appears to be a new video clip or collections of pictures of opposition leaders doing unspeakable things in their bedrooms and elsewhere. It is amazing that a society which prides itself in its conservative rectitude finds so much interest in the private sexual matters of their leaders.
One good thing about this sort of programming is that I get much more time to read and write, without the distractions of the idiot box. Whenever I am in India, I am always seduced by the racy news channels and their never-ending debates on earthshaking issues that are forgotten the following week. That is when I start missing the 7th edition, as the English News programme in NTV 7 is called. Say what you will, Doordarshan had its good points!!

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