Oh wisdom! Though art away when needed most
Awarding state-owned BTV its autonomy in line with that enjoyed by say BBC has been included in the manifesto of all major political parties for decades. The party came to power, the party automatically toyed with idea, never for a moment understanding or admitting that they have lied to the nation, the party in the opposition continued to demand the autonomy, as enjoyed by our courts, the party in power went out of power, it emerged as the opposition and began demanding from the then opposition something that they could easily have fulfilled while in power, but did not. But that goes down as politics in Bangladesh.
Now a Daily Star Report (July 1) states that members of the government committee working on the autonomy matter and a sub-committee within it have decided after thorough discussion one assumes that they will be visiting India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to see the functions of the autonomous TV channels there.
Here it is perhaps pertinent to quote British playwright Simon Gray (1936 - ): 'The worst thing you can do to an important problem is to discuss it.'
The list of countries is too short and should have included at least one country from each of the continents to see how their channels are enjoying autonomy, and another set of countries to take a closed look on how the governments there are smiling amidst the pain of the people by robbing them of unadulterated news. Burma should have been on the itinerary.
It is very natural that a committee will visit different countries at the expense of people's money. That is the full autonomy enjoyed by any committee. Arrey Bhai! Tailor your national channel according to your needs. BBC did not need to visit BTV.
Maybe things will improve after we have established direct Dhaka-Colombo-Dhaka air travel, which to the government's credit is in the flight path of continuing dialogue between the two countries, but at this moment I don't have any idea about Sri Lanka TV. However, given their legacy, I have no doubt that some wrong lessons may be learnt from Pakistan, unless of course that is the purpose.
The first in-depth report of an autonomous state-owned BTV should be on the committee members' visit to different foreign countries, the lessons they have learnt, the degrees they have obtained in lieu of the classes attended at PTV and Door Darshan, and the amount of money involved. Maybe that is one reason why committee after committee have been successfully damming the popular idea.
Let us assume that this caretaker government at the fag end of its tenure does grant BTV and Bangladesh Betar their freedom to think. That's right! Presently they do not think. They follow instructions, by which measure they end up becoming boxes of lies transmitted electronically to people who do not believe a word broadcast or picture shown when critical national issues pop up.
Yeah! What will happen if say BTV does become autonomous? Will it change its name overnight to something we do not recognise? Will it, to prove its autonomy, remove B from its acronym and replace it with P, meaning people, and end up as PTV? See what a foreign visit can do? No, BTV will remain BTV.
Will it have a new building? I doubt it.
Will it stop telecasting until it has new equipment? No.
Will it be importing performers, newscasters, technicians and administrators? No.
Will it be speaking to its viewers in a foreign tongue? No.
Will it stop ongoing advertisements? No.
Will it be unable to pay its staff their salary? No.
Will it be behaving any better with the package producers? No, because private channels also enjoy that unenviable reputation.
Will it be bound to tell the truth in its news and factual programmes? Yes, if only for positive public standing.
See, for only one 'yes' out of so many no's the entire transformation is being held up for years.
This caretaker government is not a political entity, nor will any of those holding cabinet responsibilities seek election. It has no selfish interest. Therefore, it has no problem with the lone 'yes', or should even some of the 'no's' transform into being affirmative. It should therefore accelerate the process of gifting the nation with a channel that will be seen as being owned by the people, run by the people's will, and speak for the people.
Till then I propose we should rename our state-owned channel as BGTV (where 'G' stands for government) or HBTV (where HB stands for 'hardly believed'). There could be other possibilities but for that there should be advertisements in at least two newspapers (cost Taka 30,000) with request to interested respondents to submit suggestions within two days of its appearance (no thinking time allowed) for a prize of Taka 5,000. (Total budget Taka 1,50,000 including for meeting, stationery, press conference, postage, conveyance, report writing, and gift and bouquets for the chief guest and special guests at the award giving ceremony.)
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