ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Linking Pins in a Global World

World Satellites over South Asia: Broadcasting, Culture and the Public Interest by David Page and William Crawley; Sage Publications, New Delhi/ Thousand Oaks, London, 2000; pp 495, Rs 250 (paperback).

Less than a decade ago, commercial satellite and cable-based broadcasting in south Asia were perceived as upstart, new kids on the block whose national ambitions were decried as unrealistic. A decade on, there is already a generation of viewers who refuse to believe that there was life before satellite broadcasting. This book offers the first comprehensive introduction to broadcasting – old and new in south Asia. It discusses the economics, politics and cultural impact of satellite broadcasting in the region in the context of globalisation, in particular that wrought by communication flows; globalism, the cultivation of new attitudes in response to globalisation; glocalisation, the indigenisation of international channels and products to local needs, and public interest. The major focus of the book is on the unfolding broadcasting scenario in India, which is, the dominant broadcasting entity in the region and the purveyor of Bollywood-based content that has a conspicuous presence on the airwaves in south Asia today.

So what are the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Let me single out a few of its strengths. Firstly, it is a book that is the result of a collaborative effort between the two authors and a number of local researchers whose contributions have been duly acknowledged. The book would have been poorer for the lack of local detail supplied by the research team. For instance, the section on cable politics in south India was carried out by a team of Chennai-based researchers. And the section on community broadcasting in Sri Lanka was similarly based on inputs from a local team. The authors also organised workshops and attended workshops – a source for much of the material. Secondly, the book has been complemented with a video produced by Nupur Basu. This package will undoubtedly make it into an effective pedagogical tool, provided students and interested people have access to this material (!!). So much for process. Thirdly, there is an expressed intentionality to deal with broadcasting in the public interest. Now this might sound like old hat to some, given the interminable discussions that we have had in south Asia on the democratisation of broadcasting. However, in the light of the common vein of books that are being churned out on the media in south Asia that are little more than celebratory eulogies of technology and communications as commerce, the public stance taken in this book is welcome, although one can still critique it for not taking this discussion onto an unfamiliar, different plane to the ones that we have been accustomed to. Following on from this point, the space given to community radio in south Asia is also I believe important – for, as it has been proven in many parts of the world, community radio is a lynchpin for the democratisation of broadcasting.

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