Wider reach through media'

Print edition : December 16, 2011

BIJOY GHOSH

Kiran Karnik, former President, Vigyan Prasar.

What role does public broadcasting of scientific programmes play in nation-building?

The propagation of science is a key element of nation-building, especially in a developing country like India. This is not only because of the crucial role science and technology plays in economic growth but equally because of the importance of what Nehru called scientific temper. The method of science based on hypothesis, experimentation, data, analysis and confirmation or modification of the original hypothesis creates a rational and evidence-based approach to issues, which extends way beyond the realms of science.

Such rationality is a necessity if superstition and irrational prejudices are to be banished from our society. In a society with high illiteracy and given the influence of broadcast media (especially television), the best way to reach out to people is through science programmes on the electronic media. It is for this reason that broadcasting of science programmes is important and plays a vital role in nation-building.

Since private channels have little interest in broadcasting science documentaries, can you think of any other medium to promote scientific temper?

It is true that most Indian TV channels are reluctant to broadcast documentaries and science programmes; however, not all private channels are averse to them. In fact, channels like Discovery broadcast such programmes for extensive periods every day. It also has a dedicated science channel.

There have been many discussions over the years to start a dedicated Indian science channel, but this has not fructified yet.

Meanwhile, Vigyan Prasar has been producing some excellent science programmes which have been broadcast over Doordarshan and All India Radio. One advantage of this approach (compared with a dedicated science channel) is the wider reach and audience of the mainstream channels. One does wish though that Doordarshan and AIR particularly the former would give more time for science programmes and also give them better time slots, particularly since the V.P. programmes are popular and have got high ratings in terms of TRPs [television rating points].

New media like DVDs and the Internet offer immense possibilities, which liberate viewers from the tyranny of fixed times. Carrying these via the Internet opens the possibility of interactivity. Of course, the print medium continues to offer large audiences, flexibility of time and absorption pace. Booklets, books, posters and magazines are all media that have been used and have generated great interest and feedback.

V.P. has created a new and unique medium through Science Express, a train that carried the message of science (through experiments/demonstrations and an exhibition) to many parts of the country.

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