Wednesday, March 11, 2009

TV: India vs China

Indian TV is amazing. We stay at very average places that do not solely cater to international visitors. Usually one third of the 30 to 60 channels are in English and most of the time there are three movie channels including HBO (same brand, different programming, I think), not to mention the movie channels in the local languages. Indians love movies. What's surprising is that a lot of the time we also get American channels that we know and love, such as History, Travel and Living, and National Geographic channels. They feel familiar yet weird, since we have not regularly watched TV for the last 6 years.

This is a far cry from China. Traveling in China we stay in the same class of hotels as in India, maybe lower, since hotel standards are higher in China. Though the TV sets are invariably better, the programming is dismal. If we are lucky, maybe one quarter of the time, we get the sole government run English language channel CCTV 9. Since all media is state controlled, all programs sprout the same party propaganda. Every now and then I would try to catch some local news on the Chinese language channels, but invariably I would be so disgusted by the same slogan that I grew up with;e.g., "Follow ___'s lead, uphold ____ principles ...." I end up clicking off the TV in frustration, cursing. Though CCTV 9 is only slightly more tolerable, when we do get it, I am glad of the change and watch in earnest, I have stooped so low.

When we were traveling in China last spring, TV was all about the Olympic torch relay, in excruciating detail; e.g.,which big wigs waited at the airport, the plane lands, so-and-so steps out and waves at the crowd.... Then the Tibetan protests happened. Happy Tibetans fill the is so much better now compared to under Dalai Lama....ungrateful Tibetans. All dissenting Chinese language sites were blocked on the Internet. English languages sites seemed to be censored less. We were glad when the earthquake happened -- I don't really mean that, not for the people -- as we thought we would finally see some real news. What a mistake! All we saw was the government troupes and officials leading the rescue efforts, and lines of people dropping 100 yuan notes into collection boxes. There was hardly any "disaster" coverage; that is, the destruction, the damage, and the dead. I could go on ranting, but it depresses me too much.

Another thing we noticed is that Indian TV commercials actually look like commercials to us, not that much different than the ones in the US. On the other hand Chinese TV commercials are so bland and cutesy, one would think we are still living in the 1950s. It's no wonder China is the only country in the civilized world where the young are turning to the Internet for entertainment more than the TV.


Anonymous said...

Could not agree more on Chinese tv programs. :( When I was in Beijing during the 2nd week of Olympic game, I hardly watched anything due to the exact propaganda and poor quality.

Head to Croatia/Slovenia in one hour. See you later.

Manoj Payardha said...

Well i am indian in india .I am fed up with the propaganda of cnn and fox with their documentaries and about how american soldiers are helping poor iraqi kids and the unending smiles on iraqi childrens faces .i mean 2 hour documentary on this nonsense is too just too much .Then how the american troops in philipines are basically protecting the citizens of philipines from evil groups inside their country and how happy those poor souls are ,It is just too much to handle for me here . Ofcourse never ending nonsese about obama the other day the entire news was blocked just to show puppies .I mean i dont think this level of propaganda was ever run since stalin or kin sung il died . I had to wait like 30 minutes before they got enough obama's new dog .The unending service america is doing to India by killing islamic terrorists .It is one nonsense after anotehr with no apparent end and i am just tired of it . Previously i always switched of fox now we even get CNN in india ohh my fucking god and ofcourse we even france 24 that is just one crazy network .They somehow forget to show the french support of the rwanda genocide and ofcourse how france issued an arrest warrant against president kagame because he did the crime of ending the rwanda genocide .Things are getting really irritating for me here in India . I think i have seen enough smiling afghani's enough smiling philipino's and enough smiling iraqi kids for a lifetime and i haev seen at least 100 schools being built with bare hands of american troops (i wish they just had not blown them apart previously . Anyway i am from hyderabad and i am Manoj .Nice to read yoru blog luckily we both share similar problems on both sides of border :)

Sun-Ling said...

Manoj, your comment here and the separate email are very much appreciated. Your attention overwhelmed me :) I am responding to both here.

Television is an instrument of entertainment foremost. It also happens to be the most accessible form of news for most people. My original post was from the point view of a casual observer. What do I really think as a cynic? Of course there is bias, omission, exaggeration, misrepresentation, everywhere, in every country, due to various reasons like government censorship, sponsor pressure, personal prejudice, societal morale.... There is no ways around it. It is up to ourselves as individuals to seek the truth, e.g. check multiple sources, get first hand information, do some independent thinking.

On a personal note, John and I have not owned a TV for six years. In fact neither of us has ever purchased a TV. I need to explain about how we feel about American channels abroad. How do I put it? It's like if you growing up eating donuts, jalebis, spam, etc. everyday, no matter how sworn off or repulsed, you are now, an occasional taste makes one, nostalgic, or something like that. As for showing American programs on India TV in general. I think open is better. It's about choices. Indian people are better off than Chinese people to have those choices. We watched an Aljazeera channel in Yangon and thought it was great. Why not include Aljazeera in all the cable packages in the US? We chose No TV, but we want to see lots, lots of other choices for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Aljazeera is available in the just have to hunt around the cable stations a little in order to find it. I watch it often...from New York City.