The Bhaskar Ghose Glasnost
Swami, arguing against my point that deregulation makes things better, claims that Tamil TV hasn’t got better at all after the entry of private channels – the positive changes have been balanced out by the negative ones. My only experience with TV in Tamil Nadu involved watching midnight masala on Sun TV when I was in Chennai, so I am not very qualified to comment about that. But about National TV, I partly agree. Indian TV was at its best during the Bhaskar Ghose era. The quality of serials that were on air at that time has not been equalled since.
But the fact is, the deterioration has nothing to do with deregulation or privatization. The great quality was attributable to one person who was fired when he went too far. I distinctly remember that Doordarshan had become unwatchable by 1991, when the dish arrived. There were reports of bureaucracy and corruption, about how producers had to pay bribes to get their serials cleared, and the cumbersome processes they had to follow.
There are three points here. First, people often argue that great art flourishes under State patronage. But they neglect to point out that usually they are not talking of the modern democratic state, but autocracies and monarchies of the past where this happened. “State patronage” therefore just means that great art flourishes under rich guys who happen to have great taste. (Survivorship bias ensures that mediocre and bad art is extinguished from public consciousness.) There is not much evidence that great art flourishes under democratic checks and balances or decisions by committee.
Second, even when we have examples like independent, decent media like the BBC or the PBS, we do not know how to replicate that success in other countries. With private players, we will get mediocre art, but at least we know how to do it.
Thirdly, government success decays. One of these days, I will write a post about why it happens, but it does.