Once upon a time, a long time ago, when I was a young account executive in a large ad agency, I was dispatched to DD’s headquarters in Delhi with a clear brief: Convince them to accept our client’s ad for their new show, or don’t come back. (Well, in not so many words.) Those were days when there was only one big ‘DiDi’ (now there’s Mamata as well), leaving no choice for harried advertisers. I must tell you I did manage to get the commercial on air, but after a lot of blood, sweat, tears (and other lovely things) happened. I had to plead with the safari suit clad babus to kindly accept my revenues! Of course, I was cursing about this monopolistic situation all the way back to Bombay. And wondering why must there be just one Hindi channel in India. And it took just one year after that incident for this to change. With the launch of India’s first private Hindi channel.
It is in this context that I read mxmindia’s spread on the eve of Zee TV completing 20 years. To me, it isn’t about what Zee has managed or not managed to achieve in two decades, which has been a mixed bag, really. There are some things they did right and many others they did wrong. The channel has since been upstaged by more enterprising broadcasters, though TVRs for GECs is a game of Yoyo… today down, tomorrow up. So it would be incorrect to say Zee has been beaten. One good show or a big movie can get them buzzing again.
To me, it is the game-changer role played by Zee that is of immense significance. They took the risk, they experimented, they broke DD’s monopoly, and they changed the desi skies forever. They were the pioneers, the trend setters, and their success led to other broadcasters getting interested in this game. However much Zee’s fortunes have fluctuated over the years, no one can take this away from them. History will record Zee as the channel that started the real television revolution in India.
And yup, they also made sure unfortunate account executives didn’t need to beg for their commercials to get air time. My DD story would sound incredible to young professionals today, because they are spoilt for choice. In fact, there are too many channels now, and it is their sales personnel who have to do the toiling to get the prized ad. And it’s Zee that started it all.
PS: It is this sort of deadly international praise that has injected some energy into an otherwise comatose PM. Too little, too late. MMS is destined to go down in history as a tragedy king. Actress Meena Kumari finally has a soul mate.