Freedom of speech and expression

Freedom of speech and expression is not just a modern day practice, but rather a dedication to the martyrs of the then freedom struggle in the country that lost many lives so that this freedom could be achieved. It is a part of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.  This essence of democracy calls for free debate and discussion to enable citizens understand issues around them.

It is like an encouragement to enable an artist generate a plethora of ideas without fear. It invites performers from their respective domains to bring to the forefront a huge array of perspectives that could serve to change the policies and practices of a country. This could be well seen in films made by filmmakers like Rajkumar Hirani, Prakash Jha, Kamala Hassan and certain others. They have gone by the actual role of their art to not just be one to ideate but also profess an ideology of being anti-establishment so that one side of it does not only receive the selective light, but every side so that it can be seen in totality and developed if seen as faulty.

But questions and faults are not easily digested. Hence, in the recent past, this glorified freedom has taken a back seat. Censorship and politically supportive pieces have become a celebrated priority.  “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear,” said George Orwell.

Hence, irrespective of the content and favouritism, it is a need to shape public opinion in society. There are debates and discussions, documentaries, investigative developmental journalism and citizen journalism that have emerged in the post-modern times so that all views are amassed and presented. The citizens of a country can then take a stance based on it and contribute to effective governing of a country. The right to information, anti-corruption campaigns, gender sensitisation and scams in various areas in society are some talks of the town that emerged in the light of it.

On one hand it is these criticisms that help the politicians to improve their functioning processes and mend the system accordingly; on the other hand it could benefit the political climate as in the case of Donald Trump, who after so much criticism from the media still managed to be elected as the President of USA.  It also helps people improve or sort out the differences of the nation if an individual is given to make a point that could transform into a standpoint in the future.

It also calls for the need of people of a community or culture to examine their practices of a society as seen in works of Perumal Murugan and Salman Rushdie. It also makes people think about the way they actually view society as seen in paintings of MF Hussain. But many times it is the artist that is questioned and not the issue. Only certain people like Khushwant Singh with his then column and Cyrus Broacha- Kunal Vijaykar with their television show through satire have not been victimised for their free expression although they have been criticised quite often for it.

A free mind and world is like an open chamber of new thoughts and ideas. It helps writers, artists, thinkers and decision makers to explore an issue by looking at a canvas of views and take a stance on various issues to facilitate effective functioning. Hence, there is a need for freedom of speech and expression.

Rebranding Doordarshan?

Over the last few days, after Shashi Shekhar Vempati, the newly appointed CEO of Prasar Bharati, announced the plan for changing the Doordarshan logo through a public call for new designs, we have seen on social media a lot of hue and cry. Indian TV viewers became nostalgic about the iconic logo and Twitter exploded with requests for not changing it.  It is doubtful if the requests from Twitteratis will be considered by Prasar Bharati as the whole aim of the logo change exercise is to woo the millennial generation who has no such nostalgic memory of the Doordarshan logo.

The last date for submissions for the new logo design is August 13 and the winner will be awarded paltry prize money of Rs 1 lakh. We are seeing on social media entries from various aspirant designers and according to reports, the number of entries has crossed 2000.

Redesigning of a brand logo is such a complicated exercise,that I have been wondering if a public call for entries and the almost one-liner brief can do justice to DD’s strategic need. The designer of the present logo, Devashis Bhattacharya, then a student of visual communication at the National Institute of Design (NID) who now runs his own design outfit, was quoted by Mid-Day saying: “If Doordarshan wishes to appeal to the young, they will have to look inwards, at the very programming of their content, and not just at logos designed by young professionals.”

An organisation decides to redesign its logo for various reasons; when two companies merge or product line gets extended or when the logo design gets outdated or recharging of public interest is required or negative association with the logo needs to be changed. The first two reasons do not apply in case of Doordarshan. The current logo vaguely resembling yin-yang symbol is far from being outdated. However, there is no doubt that Doordarshan needs to recharge the Indian TV viewer’s’ attention and to erase the strong negative association about the national broadcaster among the Indian youth.  For achieving such communication goals, the first and foremost task is to change the quality of the programme content of Doordarshan followed by changes in its internal structure and culture. A complete new outlook for promoting and marketing Doordarshan is also essential.

The senior IAS officers at the helm of Prasar Bharati and Doordarshan understood the importance of quality content for revamping the channel. In May 2016, Prashar Bharati took a decision to auction primetime slots between 7 and 11pm on the national channel of Doordarshan to private producers. After two failed attempt for auctioning, finally in the third auction held in December 2016 Balaji Telefilms and Saaibaba Telefilms were awarded six primetime slots (three each). The downward sliding of revenue was arrested and in 2016-17 Doordarshan recorded net revenue of Rs 827.51 crore, up from Rs755 crore in 2015-16. As reported by Livemint in an article on August 3, “The broadcaster was hoping to generate Rs100 crore in 2017-18 from the auction—Rs20 crore as the collective bidding price of the slots sold in the auction and Rs80 crore in advertising revenue (from new programming).”

The article above also announced that the Ministry of I&B has taken a decision to review the new content acquisition scheme through auctioning of primetime slots by Doordarshan. The two production houses have been working on youth-oriented shows, family dramas and reality shows expected to be rolled out from July 2017. The promos for the programmes were running on Doordarshan and according to industry sources quite a few episodes have already been canned by both the producers. At this point of time it is completely uncertain if the Ministry would allow Doordarshan to implement the existing policy or what changes it will make in the same. The decision of Ministry of I&B, which came immediately after the appointment of Smriti Irani as the Information and Broadcasting minister following the resignation of Venkaiah Naidu, proves once again the authoritarian hold of our government over the so-called autonomous Prasar Bharati.

An attempt to change the Doordarshan logo without the support of quality content will be a disaster. There are number of case histories of rebranding failures where logo changes could not achieve the desired results. If the Ministry of I&B dictates Doordarshan to go ahead with a logo change without the orchestrated attempt for improving the quality of the content, it will be another addition in the list of rebranding failures.

A letter to the future me…

Dear Future Me,

Hey, you there. You. Yes, you. I am talking to you. I see your masks have become healthier than before. They are beaming with confidence. Exuberating radiance, that you lacked some six years ago. I was passing by your office two days ago, just then I found you hopping out of your car and frantically running towards the gate. You were late may be. Yes, I know some habits die hard.

It seems the masquerade is going on well. By the way, what happened to your plans of leaving civic society and moving to a hill station where nobody knows? Are you still on it? Or, the cosy armchair, the upholstered car seats and beds have made you a slave of the capitalist masters? You knew it from the beginning I guess, that you are a slave of materialistic pursuits and a narcissist massager of your own ego, ready to pounce on anything to salvage your ends. Look, your masks have helped you in this pursuit.

Do, you still cry on your living floor when our parents are out. Oh, I am sorry you moved out to achieve your dreams, leaving them behind. Still, do you cry like a child when your rival channel edges you out on TRPs? Don’t just smirk at me. I am not writing this to haunt you of your hostel days, where you found the bubble burst within just days of initiating your adventure. But with a hope that these words would hold a mirror in front of you reflecting the monster that you are, and your idealized visions that you spun in hour eyes some six years ago.

You always wanted a secluded life, away from the din and bustle of the city. A community where people do not run. A place where people have the time for each other to get down from a bike and talk for five minutes rather than putting up a fake sophisticated “Hii”, with an equally artificial smile. You wanted to know people by chatting with them, may be by sitting under a banyan tree with an earthen cup of tea in your hand and indulging into their deeper recesses of mind, by accessing their myriad of experiences by making them talk about them. Yes, you have been doing the same things just in a very professional way. A pen camera has become your aide, in digging up things secretively and bringing them up to public eye. People trust you easily, therefore they let you in their private spaces and what you do, you make business out of that. You ride your luxury car by decimating people’s trust, their expectations and belief.

You hated to go to parties, remember? You didn’t even attend your freshers, because you thought reading again Kafka’s Metamorphosis is better than immersing oneself in booze and psychedelic lights. Now, it has become customary to attend weekend parties, where you drink up to the neck and dance with other’s wives. But you have been a lecher since school, so it’s nothing new to you. Do you read books, nowadays? Or watch some movies just for the sake of watching it, and not to find out any controversy that can feed you with more viewership? I know you want to throw this letter away, right now and again bury yourself in one of those work files. But, try to finish it. It can act as a photograph of your distant aspirations, as now you don’t look back. Only the next milestone beckons you.

You hated to work at home. Do you take your ppts to your bedroom now, or leave them at your office desk? What about your childhood buddies? Do you remember their birthdays? Care to give them a call once in a while. I know you are in touch with your sound designer friend, that is good. At least you get rid of that mask for some time when you are with him. But what is there behind that mask? Or has the mask itself has become your face? I dread the second possibility, if it is true. I know you will touch your face now to feel the softness of your skin and again be assured that you are not wearing any mask, and the allegation is false, just to pacify yourself that everything is alright.

Get out of that bubble. Burst it down, even if it means to lose your armchair in office, for which you have toiled your brain and brawn, day and night. I know you cried when you did not feature on the best writers podium in your undergraduate days, but you did not lose that sensitivity which edged you from others. That cannot get lost. Remember your favourite that all you need is a bed and four square meals a day. Why do you remain perennially irritated with yourself, and why is that your joys last for only a day, even if that comes from achieving the prestigious award that you craved right from the day you walked into your chamber? Try to stand in front of the mirror once again, just as you used to do when you over-burdened yourself with unnecessary work that did not appeal to your aesthetics and you still had to do because of the tyrannous professor. You refrained from doing them or even if you did, it would lack your hallmark. Question yourself, did you pursue your passion only to be dominated by some stupid numbers. You believed in art for art sake. You did not care if the mass did not like your poetry or thoughts, because you believed that self-enjoyment is the sole purpose of any creative exercise.

Tear down that mask and set free yourself of the inhibitions that shackle you. You are the Rintrah of Blake’s universe who is an eternal rebel shaking fire into the burdened air. Step out of those Alberto Torresi formals and step into those hawais that have gathered the dust of neglect. Live out of that bow, which tries to strangle that vibrant soul and wear an old loose jersey, once your favourite and now lost in one of the lower trays of your wardrobe. Start ransacking the ordinary for, therein lies the extra-ordinary. Everything is not lost, as that child in you comes out everytime Madrid wins a match. Underlying that mask there still remains a caring husband who makes it a point to drop her off to office every morning.

Hope I have been able to cheer you up again and has persuaded you enough to follow your nascent dreams and not the plastic ones manufactured by the proneness to adhere the common wisdom of the world.

Yours lovingly,

Left back self