Jenson Joseph

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year

Jenson Joseph works as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Media and Communication in Central University of Tamil Nadu. He has done a PhD on Malayalam cinema of the 1950s from the University of Hyderabad, published in various journals including Bioscope and Positions Asia Critique and presented his work on Malayalam films and media in various seminars in India and abroad. His current project aims to construct a cultural history of Asianet, one of the first satellite television channels targeting Malayali audience in the country as well as the scattered Malayali diaspora in various parts of the world.

Television studies as an offshoot of film studies started picking up pace in India as a discipline in the 1990s. The state run Doordarshan began facing major competition from the privately owned satellite channels that started their broadcast in the wake of liberal market policies. Many of these channels were owned by the Indian diaspora and were aired from the neighbouring countries of India using a range of foreign satellites. Some also started operating as ground channels but their reach and content was often informed by the satellite channels. Many of these channels were trying to address the question of regional identity in the face of globalisation. Jenson’s project takes one such channel, viz. Asianet as a case to study the role of privately owned satellite television programming in refashioning the region’s cultural identity and subject formation vis-a-vis modernity and globalisation. His study is primarily divided in two phases with different focus areas.

The first part of his work will consist of the study of the nature and role of State owned television in the region. He plans to do this by accessing policy documents from the Government archives. This will set up the context for the next phase. In the second phase he intends to look into the content, form and role of Asianet. His primary focus is to look at news content broadcast by the channel. He will access the channels archives for recorded material and will talk to senior producers and news presenters. He also intends to look into the channels entertainment content. One of the main concerns his research intends to look into is the discussion around women viewers. He will access popular media related magazines and literary sources to understand the debates around that time. Asianet being a satellite broadcast could address the large diaspora audience outside the country which the State run television channels failed to address. Jenson wishes to study the context and the economics that shaped this. Finally, he wants to understand the pervasiveness of satellite television and television news by reading into popular cultural references and the anxieties they produced in the region.

His project will take a year for completion since he will have to interview media professionals who are very busy and not very empathetic to academic research. He will have to access many archives to dig out materials as in most cases television archives are not very reliable. The standard practice is to erase old tapes to record new content on them. In which case he will have to find out other ways to arrive at that history and it will not be very easy to substantiate. Unlike film or theatre, television does produce or depend on text. It is a flow of events that form this media. Writing history of television has been difficult for this reason and it is even more difficult in India because it is seen purely as business and the urge to archive isn’t a concern.

When finished, his research will be an important contribution to fill the large lacuna that exists in the field. The theoretical framework of his argument aims to find a new way of reading satellite television’s role in the region and in the context of globalisation and formation of the ‘Global’ subject beyond national boundaries. He seems to be well aware of the limitations of his project and is ready to deal with them. The outcome of the project will be an article in a peer reviewed journal. Given the scope and requirement of the project his budget seems to be justified.


This grant was made possible with support from the Bajaj Group.