Friday, October 27, 2006

Future of national television for Singapore Indians

My family and I are a part of a lesser known community within the Indian community in Singapore.

A Singapore newspaper recently carried an article about this lesser known community - the Bhojpuri-speaking community in Singapore, many of whom have origins in the northeast Indian states of Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. A secular Bhojpuri Society to champion this niche group's interests has been formed.

Around the same time, my sister was reflecting about what it means to be a Singaporean Indian and the relevance of national television to Indians in Singapore.

My sister was flabbergasted when someone appearing on national television suggested that the winner of a Singapore beauty pageant for the Indian commuity should be a person who speaks Tamil.

Many people in Singapore tend to assume that, if you're an Indian, you speak Tamil - one of the four national languages in Singapore.

My own view is that this assumption is less prevalent now than in the past.

In recent years, in this part of the world, there has been greater awareness of the diversity that shapes India.

This is partly attributable to the higher level of profile that the global Indian diaspora enjoys. It is also due to the greater appeal of Bollywood one finds around the world today.

Languages such as Hindi, Punjabi or Bengali are now thought in Singapore schools. Singapore is also seeing more successful people coming out of these niche groups in the Indian community.

On cable television today in Singapore, one finds more non-Tamil channels catering to Indians, includng other non-Indians.

I understand that these channels are well-subscribed, even though official numbers are not available.

Resultantly, these all have implications for the future of the national television channel for Indians in Singapore. Non-Tamil-speaking audiences such as my family, who used to watch this channel regularly, now almost totally do not watch it.

We increasingly rely on other sources of information for updates about Singapore.

There is today a debatable perception that the Indian television channel in Singapore no longer appears to serve as many in Singapore as it did in the past.

This begs the question if it should enjoy the same of level of government support it has received in the past.

Perhaps, this is something Singapore's media regulators will look into with the relevant persons in Singapore.

Dharmendra Yadav

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Dharmendra,
I read your comments about what it means to be a Singaporean Indian and the relevance of national television to Indians in Singapore.

I fully understand both your sister's and your frustration of being a minority non-Tamil Indian ethnic community in Singapore. Obviously, you are not served well by the State's media and other official racial policies.

But you have to remember that Tamil is recognised as one of Singapore's official languages precisely because this community has the longest history on the island and make up more than 80% of the total Indian population. Like it or not, the Tamils are a sizable majority and a highly visible community in Singapore. And one can argue the same point about places like the UK where Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Punjabi are the dominant languages given the size of these communities. They are pervasive and reproduce a particular ethno-cultural imaginary and tend to dominate the mediascapes. This also happens in Australia and the US. So it is no surprise that the media in these countries cater to the majority within the Indian population.

My view is that there is enough of the Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi hegemony in the Indian diaspora. I don't think it is fair in the context of Singapore to push such an agenda. Yes, there has been an increase in the number of non-Tamil speaking Indian migrants in Singapore over the last few years. And not surprisingly, market forces have capitalized on this new consumers – judging by the number of satellite TV channels now available, artistic programs (dance, musical, theatre, etc.), Bollywood shows, etc all in other languages besides Tamil.

In short, you are well catered. You have the choice of switching to these sources. Yes, you may be a minority but you are affluent, cosmopolitan and in a position of power.

The Subaltern