Language, Culture and Local News: Evolution of Regional Television in Kerala

© Media Watch 
ISSN 0976-0911 | e-ISSN 2249-8818


Language, Culture and Local News: Evolution of Regional Television in Kerala

K. G. Suresh and Maithili Ganjoo

Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies, India



Indian television was first used to promote education and agriculture. The second revolution in Indian broadcasting in 1992 opened the floodgates of satellite broadcasting, tempting media corporations to build private regional channels. This paper examines the growth and development of regional news broadcasting in Kerala. It also examines regional news networks’ media ownership and social influence. 


Keywords: Broadcasting, Doordarshan, priming, regional news, television



The globalisation of media, particularly television transmission, was one of the most significant shifts in worldwide communication in the late 20th century. The television industry was able to transition from an internationalisation phase in the 1960s and 1970s to a multi-nationalisation phase in the 1980s and a globalisation phase in the 1990s because of the widespread usage of broadcast satellites and ongoing deregulation and privatisation policies. The globalisation of television is still a trend in the twenty-first century. The present stage of “global” television goes beyond the regional aspirations of multinationalism or the international trade in television programs across nations. Removing restrictions imposed by time, distance, and national limits, has opened access to global audiences for the world’s top broadcasters.

In India, the potential for outside transmissions significantly expanded after country’s independence. The English-language Indian abroad services of All India Radio (AIR) for Europe were launched in 1951. A medium wave transmitter was erected in Calcutta in 1969, to meet the rising demand for external services. It aired external broadcasts in Bengali, Burmese, Cantonese, Kuyou, Nepali, and Tibetan for the neighbouring nations. In 1971, Rajkot received a second 1000kw medium wave transmitter that broadcast programs in Sindhi, Pushtu, Dari, and Urdu.

The Chanda Committee recommended that the External Services Division of AIR be established. The main goal of AIR’s external broadcasting is to promote knowledge and comprehension of domestic and global concerns while keeping an eye on Indian philosophy and judgment. These Regional New Unit of AIR play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the government and the populace and meeting the locals’ needs for information, especially regarding their area and language or dialect. 

Globally, the television industry is undergoing a profound transformation. Video storytelling is still and will continue to be a major entertainment. To accommodate the shifting habits of mobile video consumption in today’s era of international content delivery, business models, technology, and operational techniques must also change. Targeting has always been a feature of all media other than television, including regional print editions, city-specific FM radio, regional billboards, and individualised media consumption on Internet-enabled devices. Despite being one of the most popular advertising platforms, television severely lacks opportunities for targeted advertising. Tailored television advertising has become more popular among advertisers with the introduction of Internet-connected gadgets and set-top boxes. Three-dimensional television advertising is advancing. These include data-driven programmatic buying, targeted advertising for live and on-demand content on connected devices, and geographical and demographic targeting for pan-regional content.

Media and Cultural Imperialism

The world came closer through social and cultural influences, facilitating the intermingling of ideas and ideologies (Ganjoo, 2021). A contemporary incarnation of colonial and imperial connections wherein periphery countries are utilised as marketplaces for the cultural output of dominating states has been described as media and cultural imperialism. This creates a market for the produced items, artistic creations, and other cultural products of those exporting countries, as well as the ideas, values, and ideologies that go along with them. Cultural imperialism has been described in various ways, including as a strategy on the part of dominating nations, a local policy on the part of recipient nations, and an impact on the latter’s citizens and cultural traditions. Dominant countries have definite export policies for cultural goods. The international market is crucial to the profitability of most Hollywood movies (and a growing amount of television programming, too). Affected countries have policies that require adopting foreign technology and accompanying software or programming. These measures disproportionately benefit the elite. Cultural imperialism is also a result that is difficult to quantify. It has been theorised that impacted countries acquire values, working methods, purchasing habits, etc., from the exporting nations, even when the degree of influence on audiences may be little or indirect. The most pernicious aspect of this procedure is that it often takes a unilateral approach. Without a balanced two-way flow, dominant nations spread news, information, and entertainment while affected nations receive and consume it.

The notions of media and cultural imperialism are challenging for social scientific study since they have proven challenging to support or refute. Critical academics often employ a straightforward cause-and-effect model to explain media or cultural imperialism, concentrating on the connections between the worldwide media presence of the United States and its perceived impact on less powerful countries and cultures. Ironically, the “magic bullet” or “hypodermic needle” mechanical effects concept has long been disregarded in American media impacts research.

Advantages Localisation

Broadcast networks emphasised regional programming portfolios and enjoyed the rewards of doing so. Indian broadcasters put their best foot forward for their non-Hindi programming portfolio, from expanding language bouquets and bringing in new players in popular regional languages to investigating the possibilities of regional feeds in categories like sports and news. The regional languages within the Hindi-speaking markets, or HSM (such as Bhojpuri, Bangle, Marathi, etc.), expanded by 26 per cent, whereas the four south Indian languages Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil, and Kannada increased by 7 per cent.  

Literature Review

Many authors have analyzed the evolution of regional news channels and their impact on a particular society. Jaroslav Urminsk’s article assessed the media’s function in territorial development. The article analyses Czech TV news from 2005-2011. Information regarding self-governing area economies was highlighted in Czech TV newscasts. Mass media may restrict or boost a territory’s development potential since virtual depictions may not match reality. One incident may alter a region’s image. The author identified disparities in public and commercial television information structure, content structure and impact on viewer opinion.

Anna Agustina’s paper presented a baseline environmental TV data in Indonesia. Data were gathered from July 2017 to June 2018 utilising indexing theory on Indonesian environmental indicators. According to the survey, eleven of 63 TV stations aired 425 environmental programs. The study indicated that federal and regional government officials, ministers, and representatives from the Environment and Natural resources Office were the most reliable sources. 

The essay by Nick Hall was about Westward Television’s 1967 documentary series—The Privileged. This series served as a study of regional film production in a distant ITV franchise area. The report analysed the process through which Westward creates documentaries. Producers, editors, as well as camera operators worked together to create an innovative and ambitious documentary series. 

According to John W. Halocha, television significantly impacts how the general population perceives and is interested in geography. As geographers, we must comprehend how geography is changing in the twenty-first century if we are to make the most of the possibilities afforded by television to promote geography. The paper’s first section looked at some of the theories now used in the academic study of television. Additionally, it attempted to integrate geographic-themed programming within the context of today’s European media landscape. In the second section, four television programs shown in the UK in 2007 were examined, focusing on their geographic content.

The study by Sunday U. et al. examined advertising as an essential service that media owners and managers may depend on for income. It also explains why advertising is the main source of income for television networks. The study surveyed a few chosen staff members at NTA Abuja, FRCN Enugu, Plateau Radio/Television, and Channels Television Lagos. It was discovered that most media companies are funded by advertising income. The study also discovered that television networks tailor their programming to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, keeping in mind that the more people who watch, the more likely advertisers will buy airtime. The report suggested that as the advantages of advertising-related services exceed the negatives, they should be prioritised.

Pablo Sebastian Morales analyses what factors may be undermining China’s foreign press strategy inside this region and how this impacted China’s soft power objectives when evaluating how Latin American customers perceived CCTV’s Spanish language station to RT and Hispan TV. Results from focus groups performed in Mexico and Argentina in September and October 2016 were used for this study. During these sessions, participants saw video clips from the above broadcasters and discussed various topics. This report indicated that CCTV-E has several obstacles, including dwindling audiences, shifting news consumption patterns, and worries about the media’s legitimacy and trustworthiness. The success of CCTV-E depends on the extent to which it can tailor its offerings to the needs and desires of its audience members, mainly concerning matters of objectivity and fairness.

Kazakhstan television’s operational issues in light of recent legislation that controls the government’s informational strategy. Analysis has been done on how privately owned television operates with the government. The entire state policy significantly influences the effective execution of television’s communicative and educational roles in this area. The research has highlighted the characteristics of contemporary info-communication technologies that impact Kazakhstan’s information culture. It is known that the current infrastructure has to be at a comparable high level for educational television functions and the benefits of new communication technologies to be used effectively. Finally, the essay looks at Kazakhstan television’s operational issues in light of recent legislation that controls the government’s informational strategy.

Television Broadcasting in Kerala

In Kerala, 5% of households had TVs and cable or satellite connections in 2018, according to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India. Keralites watched TV for 3.5 hours a day, compared to Tamilians’ 4.11 hours and Andhraites’ 4.12 hours, who are its other south Indian neighbours. The emergence and development of Malayalam television channels in Kerala are thoroughly examined in this paper, focusing on news channels and their social impact.

The beginning of Madras Doordarshan’s activities in south India in the middle of the 1970s might be considered the beginning of Malayalam television broadcasting. Malayalam, the official language of Kerala, acquired representation on television under language broadcast regulations with a dedicated half-hour monthly slot in addition to a monthly half-hour film songs program. Doordarshan includes numerous significant events, including the Sabarimala Makaravilakku, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, the Onam festival, and the internationally renowned Thrissur Pooram in its broadcasts, despite its primary concentration being the Malayali people in and around an 80 km radius of Madras (now Chennai). During those years, plays, talks, interviews, and musical performances were broadcast in Malayalam by Madras Doordarshan on 16 mm film and afterwards on Spegmag tape. On January 2, 1985, at 7.30 p.m., the first-ever Malayalam newscast was broadcast live.

The first Malayalam teleserial, Or Poo Viriyunnu (A Flower Blossoms), was directed by Eravi Gopalan, A. Anwar, and P.K. Mohanan debuted in 1990 as a Doordarshan and UNICEF collaboration. After that, Doordarshan established the standard for tell fiction with works by Shyamaprasad, such as Venalinte Ozhivu, Kariyilakal Moodiya Vazhitharakal, Uyarthezhunelpu, Viswa Vikhyaathamaaya Mookkw, and others.

Growth of Regional News Channels in Kerala

The growth of regional channels came to light when CNN covered the 1991 Kuwait War live. Taking a hint from the live newscast’s success, entrepreneurs explored a 24×7 Malayalam news channel. Indiavision channel was established in 2003. The channel helped create a network of generous journalists in the state and regional capitals eager to work round-the-clock.  After Indiavision and Asianet News, various newsgroups in Kerala started their stations. Manorama News began airing in August 2006. Amrita TV, Jeevan TV, Jaihind TV, and new entrants like Janam TV continued to broadcast news and current events. Amrita TV, not a news station, experimented with news packaging and presentation and changed current affairs programming. Media One Gulf is based in Kerala and caters to the Gulf diaspora. Media One’s programmes and news reflect Islamic views. Janam TV, inaugurated on April 19, 2015, is the first Malayalam channel to use HD technology. Reliance’s News 18 Kerala was launched in Thiruvananthapuram as part of its growth ambitions. With 26.8 million impressions, Asianet News took the top position, followed by Manorama News in second place with 15.5 million impressions. Manorama News and Mathrubhumi News were in a tight race, with the latter winning with 15.1 million impressions. Reporter TV came in at number four with 5.6 million impressions, while these three networks controlled most of the market. Media One TV received 3 million impressions, while People TV, controlled by CPI (M), came in at number five with 4.9 million impressions. 

Flowers TV is Insight Media City’s first channel. It has cutting-edge technology, such as augmented reality. Within a year of launching, the station overtook Manorama and Mathrubhumi to become second to Asianet News. There are several cable channels in Malayalam, including Asianet Cable Vision (ACV), managed by ASCL, and subsidiary channels like Rose bowl, Asianet Unsay, etc. Another significant cable channel, Kerala Vision, a coalition of small and medium cable providers, recently shifted to satellite. Safari TV, operated by the Labour India Education Group, is a local alternative to Discovery and History.

The Asianet News Network operates Asianet News, previously known as Asianet Global, a free-to-air Malayalam-language news station in India. Asian Entertainment Network (Asianet) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Jupiter Entertainment (Jupiter Capital Ventures). Asianet News is one of the most popular Malayalam TV news channels. Founded in 2008, Asianet News Network (ANN) is an Indian news media conglomerate. The company is owned by Jupiter Capital and operates as a division of Jupiter Entertainment. Asianet News Network is home to the Kannada-language newspaper Kannada Prabha and the Malayalam-language news program Asianet News. It also runs three language-specific news websites: English, Tamil, and Telugu. As an English-language news network, Republic TV has attracted the interest of Jupiter Capital.

Malayala Manorama television runs and owns the Malayalam language news channel Manorama News, which is available to the public at no cost. Mathrubhumi Printing And Publishing Co. Ltd. operates the Malayalam television news station Mathrubhumi News from its headquarters in Kozhikode. In addition, it publishes several periodicals and supplements, including the literary journal Mathrubhumi Azhchappathippu every week. Mathrubhumi’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) project is SEED (Student Empowerment for Environmental Development), an environmental education program. SEED’s ultimate goal is to have environmental education taught in schools and for students to incorporate eco-friendly practices into their everyday routines. The city of Trivandrum is the home of the Indian news station Kairali News. The network’s programming is geared at informing viewers about current events. People TV, the forerunner of today’s Kairali News, was the first Malayalam news outlet to experiment with undercover stings on camera. Network 18 operates the Malayalam-language news television station News 18 Kerala from its headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram. 


In India, television was first used as a test to encourage good agricultural and educational practices. The Indian Television Broadcast “Doordarshan” expanded throughout the country under the control of the Indian government, beginning in Delhi in 1959 and creating regional broadcast centres in the four metros and several significant cities. Regional channels have also expanded significantly and become closer to the populace. Regional news networks have also emerged, mainly covering local news. The news channel is an interactive medium that connects politics and everyday life, offers a range of viewpoints, and gives aspiring citizen journalists a forum. Regional news networks and the Indian media are expanding at an astonishing rate. This study concentrated on examining the factors influencing the development and evolution of regional news broadcasting in the state of Kerala from the theoretical perspective of agenda framing. The paper also looks at Kerala’s news coverage’s priming on the national news television network throughout this period. Through the analysis, we know that Malayali people widely watch Asianet channel, as this covers national and local news. Other popular news channels like Janam, Matrubhumi, and Media-One are also being operated in Kerala, which evolved in the late ’90s. The study shows the media ownership of news television networks’ have societal effects and, over some time, has become sustainable and can successfully become potent in the region. 



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The authors are from Department of Journalism & Mass Communication, Faculty of Media Studies & Humanities, Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies, Faridabad, India