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Hold That Pose

Hold That Pose

Author: Anuradha Raman
Publication: Outlook
Date: January 26, 2009
URL: http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20090126&fname=Ramdev+%28F%29&sid=1

Introduction: Baba Ramdev plans India's 'spiritual awakening'...on the Tube

The News, Read By Baba
* News can't be views. You can't have sensational programmes and pass them off as news.
* Society is going through a churning. Viewers need to be spiritually sensitised.
* Education, health and the farmers have been ignored. These require sharper focus.
* With the exception of mobile service providers, no MNC ads to play on the channels

***

He is the undisputed master of the spiritual airwaves, prime mascot of Astha, our No. 1 religious TV channel. He's also a man who has had his share of controversies, most notably when his Haridwar ashram was lammed for distributing ayurvedic medicines allegedly mixed with bones. Yet people continue to be drawn to Baba Ramdev, the master holding sway with his homespun wisdom and green medicine remedies.

But that's the past. It's a new year and Ramdev is positioning himself as an entrepreneur with one sole objective, the spiritual awakening of India-through TV. The first phase will see two channels, slated to take off in April. Later, three more are to be added. The Baba Ramdev-run Patanjali Yog Peeth Trust, located 20 kilometres off Haridwar, took over the Astha channel a few months ago as a first step towards starting the spiritual, entertainment and current affairs channels. There are no answers on how much money will go into the media venture, and more importantly where it will flow from. The baba's followers, both the high and mighty as well as the humble, will support the effort, so goes the reasoning.

Marketing head and Baba Ramdev's spokesman S.K. Tijarawala says there is room for channels that hold the promise of clean, spiritually uplifting content. "Is there any channel now that instils a sense of pride and contentment among viewers?" asks Tijarawala. To this end, Ramdev's role is well defined. While he will not be dabbling in the business of running the channels, he will be the spiritual guide and mentor. He will have a say on what will drive content on the channels. Some pointers are in place already-revival of the classical arts, a healthy dose of spiritual talk, programmes for farmers, some rigorous but easy-to-follow yoga for healthy living.

Speaking for his mentor, Tijarawala says that existing news and entertainment channels are not quite up to the mark. "It will be our endeavour to redefine the parameters of news. We'll look at education, the issue of farmers, the role of multinational companies in the economy carefully and debate issues... not put out sensational tidbits and pass them off for news," he says.

Tijarawala is also clear about the kind of advertising the channels will beam. So there will be no gutka/pan masala and no multinationals, except a few chosen telecom companies. Only ads promoting ayurvedic soaps, oils, salt and incense sticks will be solicited. "We will have no hazardous commercials," says Tijarawala, adding that there is no dearth of advertisers waiting to seek custom for their wares on the channels.

As of now, the spokesman for the yet-to-be-launched channels denies that the Baba will dabble in politics. But with elections around the corner, one can never know to what end the channel will be put to use. A trust inaugurated last week-also run by Ramdev-clearly states that it will be its endeavour to weed out corruption in public life.

Spiritual gurus have always had a say in Indian politics. Some of them have successfully courted politicians, presided over sprawling empires. Still others have faced ignominy. It remains to be seen how Baba Ramdev fits into the role of a broadcaster.


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