From watching one channel to surfing hundreds, Parvez Chowdhury, of Dhaka Bangla Channel elaborates upon the changing nature of televised contents with Rubab Nayeem Khan 

Photograph by Asad Mahmud Sujon

Parvez Chowdhury
Head of Program for DBC News

Once upon a time, television, particularly BTV was a hub of entertainment for Bangadeshis.
Cinema, drama, cartoons and even daily news would be broadcasted in this one channel. Needless to say that the channel brought us immense joy and recreation long before the days of satellite and cable television. However, much has changed over the years; the television spectrum is no longer restricted to just one channel, rather, it multiplied to several other channels. The audience now has a larger buffet to choose from, with the introduction of private channels.
Parvez says there’s a stark difference between TV content, before and after the 90s. Since socialism failed as a state policy, it made a huge impact on televised content. “Many shows in BTV, a state-owned channel, were aired without dubbing. Being a terrestrial television channel, its viewership was confined to Bangladesh only,” says Parvez. Once the satellite concept was developed, it created a natural spill over; meaning, a program that is based in one specific country will be aired in multiple regions. As a result, TV channels resort to dubbing so that consumers of Bengali channels don’t follow shows of any other languages. Subsequently after the 90s, there was a dramatic shift in economic policies, which led to huge investments in communications department in the world,” explains Parvez.
Before the 90s, the Bangladeshi audience was linear; they were satisfied with one option for entertainment. But post 90s, they had a variety of options. They could tell the difference between quality and mediocre shows. Parvez says that entertainment is heavily fuelled by what the audience wants to see; hence the structural design of a show is very much dependent on the masses. With the arrival of satellite television, the audience was open to various kinds of content. All this time when they watched BTV, the content there wasn’t as thought-provoking compared to other channels. This enabled them to rationalise between positive and negative content. “Around that time, another terrestrial channel came to being in Bangladesh, which was Ekushey Television (ETV). Since it’s a private investment, it combined the taste of satellite television with public broadcast television and created a model that was able to revolutionise the structure of news channels in Bangladesh. ETV not only catered news but also other elements which managed to shape the perspective of the masses,”
he adds.

Once the satellite concept was developed, it created a natural spill over; meaning, a program that is based in one specific country will be aired in multiple regions

But no matter how much they changed, one thing remained constant among the viewers, and that’s the love for shows which hold a historical or fantasy themed plotline. This eventually roped in shows like Tipu Sultan, The Adventures of Sinbad and the most recent addition, Sultan Suleiman.
“With the rising consumption of satellite television, viewers started to veer away from watching only BTV. Among other channels, they found something similar and more relevant to the Bangladeshi context. Shows like Sultan Suleiman or Tipu Sultan managed to build a fan base here in our country based on the cultural correlation. If one looks at Indian soap operas, the stories initially revolved around religion,” he elaborates. According to Parvez, Sultan Suleiman has become a fan favourite in Bangladesh not only because of the family dynamics that is depicted in the show but it also explores issues like politics, religion, glamour as well as sex; basically expanding upon all those things that moves an individual on a personal level.
While TV entertainment has thoroughly evolved, there are areas that still need improvement. Parvez believes that our television channels still need to put in extra effort to produce glamorised shows of our own, like Sultan Suleiman. “We haven’t been able to make a show of the same calibre because we have minimal communication with our audience. We need to develop a culture of understanding the pulse of the audience,” stresses Parvez. He also mentions that the licensing pattern for private channels is BTV centric, in the sense that it falls under a public broadcast system. As a result, every channel’s content eventually turns out to be repetitive. He believes that television channels need to do extensive research in order to prioritize the changing tastes
of viewers.