Thursday, February 03, 2005

57 CHANNELS AND...................

It was nearly thirteen years ago that I first heard Bruce Springsteen lament about “57 Channels and Nothing' On”.The the thought of having so many channels on the television was something of a fantasy for a small towner like me. The television at home had only eight buttons to select the channels and there was no remote. That was not going to be any problem as the cable operator provided with two channels-one for Doordarshan and the other to show movies. So it was difficult for me to understand the pain and anguish mentioned in the song. To make matters more complicated, I could not really follow the accent of the Boss.

Then after a couple of years cable television made its entry with the promise of giving the viewer with the power to choose. The two channels were replaced by a large number of channels with even dedicated sports channels and music channel(in those days MTV showed good music instead of the remix trash beamed now.)The old television could no longer be useful. It was time to replace it with a new one armed with a full-function remote. It was great to have in the hands the power to choose. This heralded channel surfing. It was really great to feel liberated from the tyranny of Doordarshan.

The happiness was short-lived though. For a while almost all the so-called entertainment channels aired mythological soaps and had countdowns of film songs(original soundtracks, for the uninitiated). The success of a particular quiz show spawned imitators across the channels. Then there was no escaping from the movie channels and the news channels. Surely, this was like a tsunami of a different kind! Paradoxically, the proliferation of channels has not in any way made me feel better. It is not rare for the same movie to be shown on two channels at the same time. Surely, this is not the competition that the late P.V.Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh visualized when they launched the economic reforms. The same faces started appearing on every channel and worse the soaps had the same masala with even their titles starting with the same English alphabet. One has to have real quick reflexes and eye-hand coordination to play the shots, that is to press the buttons of the remote control.

In statistics there is the Law of Inertia of Large Numbers which states that “other things remaining the same, the larger the size of the sample, the more accurate is the result obtained”. It is no wonder, then that all the channels look the same.Now, I am in a position to understand the full import of the song.But owing to many constraints, I cannot take the extreme step of bumping the television off with a gun!Thanks Bruce for a point well stated or sung?

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