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TV channel boom means more music

New channels have sprung up overnight, suddenly crowding the Kannada TV-scape. This means more time and more avenues for music. The question is: do the the new channels have it in them to encourage original non-film music?

Rajkumar songs enjoy a huge revival on the new TV channels There's plenty of Rajkumar on Kaveri TV, Asianet's new Kannada channel. They've strung together his songs, old and new, and play them continuously. You hear old hits from Premada Kanike, and the latest tunes from Shabdavedi. That, one presumes, is this brand new channel's way of capturing viewership in what has suddenly become a crowded place.

In just one month, Kannada television has witnessed a never-before influx. Three new channels have started beaming Kannada programmes, and three others are ready with their fare. Asianet, which runs a couple of well-established, popular Malayalam channels, tied up with Zee and sprang a surprise by launching its Kannada channel well before E-TV. Ramoji Rao, the Eenadu TV boss, has been preparing to launch a Kannada channel for nearly two years. Programmes commissioned by him -- music, mega serials, talk shows -- are ready and waiting for telecast. But while he was still prevaricating on when to go on air, Kaveri has begun its operations.

Eenadu's infrastructure in Hyderabad includes music and video studios, cameras and mixing and editing equipment. The channel has invited well-known theatre and TV directors from Bangalore to Hyderabad, where they have been shooting their Kannada serials. One complaint from directors was that Eenadu's Film City was so huge it had become bureaucratic like a government office. The channel is now hiring news staff, and is expected to begin functioning by August.

Ushe TV is another new entrant. It comes from the Sun TV stable, and made its appearance on the small screen in the last week of May. Ushe is an entertainment channel, focusing on films and film songs. It has the backing of Udaya, the Kannada channel that has so far been ruling the waves. Udaya has bought up the rights for hundreds of Kannada films, and the new channels are left with no films to show. Udaya has stiff competition now, but thanks to its head start, it is the best equipped. It was hitherto working from hired, cramped space, and has now moved to a well-appointed office in Bangalore's Vasanth Nagar.

Films are considered a major draw. Channels are now vying with each other to pay advances to producers for telecast rights. When a new feature film is announced, you can be sure the TV channels have already approached the producer with an offer. Kaveri TV has gone a step further and is commissioning independent telefilms. These are produced like regular feature films, and Kaveri plans to use songs from these films like others use film songs -- in countdown shows, hit parades, etc.

Udaya also plans a news channel, which means just one media house will be running three channels. Meanwhile, Doordarshan has renamed its DD 9 satellite channel Chandana. This channel provides variety entertainment, and is the only one yet to telecast classical music at prime time. The other channels have an early morning slot for classical music, but feed on film music the rest of the time.

Suprabhata, another channel that came into Kannada households last month, is run by the group that runs Prabhat, the Marathi channel. It is recycling old Kananda serials, and has yet to produce notable original programmes.

The sudden boom in the TV industry spells work for actors, musicians and technicians. Music will of course have a slot, but whether non-film music will get a boost is a question to which the answer seems far from positive.

The talk in media circles is that Taranga, the weekly published from Manipal by the Pai group, is gearing up to start its own Kannada channel. And that Sony will enter the fray by November.

All these satellite channels can be seen from over 50 countries in this part of the globe, and for viewers outside the satellite range, there's webcast. A new Chennai company called Num TV is webcasting major south Indian channels on the Net. You can register and watch television programmes on your computer screens.

Amritamati S

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