Dubbed content floods Kannada channels


Of the 75 odd daily serials that were being aired on Kannada General Entertainment Channels (GECs) before the lockdown, 30 of them have now been discontinued. Instead, dubbed content from other languages, especially Hindi, are taking over those slots.

At least 4,000 people working on these serials have lost their jobs, estimates Karnataka Television Association. What started with Malgudi Days being aired in Kannada during lockdown has now expanded to include several others. While presently only dubbed mythologicals are being aired, several contemporary social serials from Hindi, Telugu and Tamil are being dubbed and will soon start airing, sources said.

This is the first time dubbed content is being aired on Kannada television, as there had been an unofficial ban on dubbing content into Kannada since late 1960s when Dr. Rajkumar led a movement against dubbing to protect a nascent Kannada film market. However, Competition Commission of India recently said such a ban was against fair practices of the market and outlawed it. A delegation led by senior directors and producers of the industry under the banner of Kannada Television Association, petitioned the State government — Revenue Minister R. Ashok — to intervene and hold parleys with channel managements to “save livelihoods and Kannada culture.”

Paying the price

Not just the Kannada TV industry, but culturally Kannada too is paying the price for not being enterprising and starting native channels completely owned in the State, say industry veterans. For instance, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu have had large networks of native GECs, which also have channels in Kannada. Except for Kasturi TV, owned by H.D. Kumaraswamy, we do not have a single native GEC in Kannada.

“This has made us all the more vulnerable to the ‘network effect’. During a downtime like we are in now, the channel managements want dump content they produce in their primary language by dubbing it into channels they run in other languages. With no GECs except one of our own, our audience will have no choice but to consume what is aired,” said veteran film-maker and television producer B. Suresha. “This is a serious threat to not only livelihoods, but also to Kannada culture, as the market dynamics may soon make Kannada native content sparse on television,” he added.

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But Arun Javgal of Kannada Grahakara Koota that campaigned for lifting a ban on dubbing and even petitioned GECs to start airing dubbed content, said these were initial days of dubbing. “In the long run, dubbed content will not dominate the entire market. Our stance has always been that audience have to have a choice and hence dubbing cannot be banned. Presently, channels are taking to dubbed content due to lack of new content being produced. If people do not like dubbed content, channels will eventually come back to original content,” he argued.

A law to regulate dubbing?

The industry body has called for regulations on airing dubbed content in Kannada. “There has never been a law on dubbing in the State. It is high time the government intervenes and legislates regulations on airing dubbed content. Protectionist measures have been implemented across the globe even in trade, why not for culture?,” asked Shivakumar, president, KTVA.

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Sagar Biswas

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