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     Volume 4 Issue 56 | July 29, 2005 |

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Trade should Go both Ways

Mustahid Hossain

Bangladesh is flooded with Indian cable channels. But does anyone know that Bangladeshi cable channels such as ATN Bangla, Channel-i or ntv do not get access across the border to our Bangla--speaking brothers in West Bengal, or even to states like Assam, Bihar, Tripura, Orissa, etc. where Bangla is widely understood by the majority of the people?

Why is that? Is this intentional or is it that none of us thought about marketing our cable channels across the border? As the youngest South Asian country, we need to grow and we need new business opportunities. In today's world, trading is all about sharing information and exchange, without which we are going to miss out on these opportunities. Trade is more likely to take place when we understand one another more. But what is the point of being in South Asia if we cannot learn from one another? Globalisation is taking place all over. Nowadays, we live in a global glass bowl instead of a brass-bowl. Whatever happens in one country is also visible to others in other countries.

Bangladesh should ask for access rights to beam its channels to India. Given that the Indian media has reached the global standards and many Indians may not even watch our programmes, there at least will be the choice of viewing our channels. A legitimate fact is that it costs nothing extra if they decide to broadcast our cable channels for their mainstream audience. All they need is to receive and put our programmes in the system. It is said that there is a lack of agents to broadcast the Bangladeshi channels from the Indian end.

Given our current standards, we have many programmes and media products to be proud of.

Our cable channels are becoming increasingly popular abroad among non-resident Bangladeshis in Dubai, London, and even across the Atlantic in the US. Interestingly such channels are gaining popularity in places like Bangkok where numerous Bangladeshis travel as tourists or medical patients.

Likewise, West Bengal has a significant population who speak Bangla, and every week thousands of Bangladeshis visit it for shopping or for medical treatment. Therefore, our cable channels must look to gain access to over 80 million Bangla speaking audience. We need to practice 'Cable Act and Policy' in our country that would standardise our programmes from a global benchmark perspective, and promote trade. Interestingly enough, most of the South American countries speak Spanish. Speaking the same language has helped them to engage in trade more often and more efficiently.

Once the local media executives realise that people even outside the country are watching their programmes, there would be greater incentive from their end to upgrade them, and move up towards the Asian benchmark status. The good news is that we are catching up, and who knows, may be Bangladesh Television channels in 2010 could be completely different and even better from Bangladesh Channels in 2005.

Meanwhile, we have to work hard to standardise our story lines, acting skills, background music. A sense of humour is another area where we need to pay increasingly more attention to catch the regional mainstream audience. Surely, movies like 'Bachelor' are noteworthy productions in that area.

If we do not get to catch the regional audience through our programmes, we will continue to be merely hospitable and like 'able fools' by letting visual entertainment flow only in one direction

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