Demand for dubbed content in Kannada television stirs up a hornet’s nest

Industry bodies fear misuse by national networks to ‘dump’ dubbed content, save on local production

June 28, 2018 08:06 am | Updated 08:06 am IST - Bengaluru

The controversial issue of dubbing of entertainment content from other languages into Kannada has come to the fore again, as pro-dubbing activists have recently written to managements of all Kannada entertainment channels asking them to broadcast dubbed serials, films and other content.

With most Kannada entertainment channels today being part of larger network of national entertainment channels, this may spark a slew of dubbed tele-serials in Kannada television, industry insiders feel.

Let people have the choice to access all knowledge and entertainment in their language - Kannada - and let them decide what they want to watch Arun Javgal, Kannada Grahakara Okkuta

Kannada Grahakara Okkuta, the organisation that was at the forefront of the legal battle to allow dubbed content in Kannada, has written a two-page letter on June 25 to managements of all channels requesting them to ‘telecast, other language films, tele-serials, film reviews, news and issues that are dubbed into Kannada’. They have also quoted judgements of the Competition Commission of India and the Supreme Court that said there can be no ban on dubbing. There has been an unofficial ban on dubbed content in Kannada for many decades as a protectionist measure in favour of the local industry.

Arun Javgal of the Okkuta said, “Any ban on dubbing is a violation of our right to access all content, including entertainment in my language, Kannada, and such a ban is essentially undemocratic.” He added that the blanket ban on dubbing had prevented making ‘educational channels’ available in Kannada for children. “A majority of children study in Kannada-medium schools. The ban on dubbing amounts to denial of accessible knowledge to children as well,” he said.

However, industry bodies — Karnataka Artistes, Technicians, Workers Federation (KATWF) and Karnataka Television Association (KTA) — fear such a move will be misused by national television networks to ‘dump’ dubbed content and saving expenditure by discontinuing production of local content.

The move will be detrimental to the livelihood of thousands working in the film and television industry. We cannot fight the financial might of national networks B.M. Krishna Murthy, president, Karnataka Artistes, Technicians, Workers Federation

“It is also a question of livelihood for several thousands of people working in the Kannada television industry,” said S.V. Shivakumar, president, KTA. The estimated combined labour size of the Kannada cine and television industry is 50,000. He, however, said they are open to dub strictly educational content.

Moreover, dubbing has also been billed a ‘cultural issue’. B. Suresh, a senior television producer and filmmaker, said dubbing of entertainment content, especially in television, when most networks are based in Mumbai, would move us towards ‘cultural homogenisation’. “Language is not just a tool of communication, but also a culture,” he argued.

Vatal Nagaraj, president, Kannada Okkuta, who has been at the forefront of anti-dubbing protests, hoped that channels ‘don’t fall prey to the pro-dubbing lobby’. If channels do start broadcasting dubbed content, he threatened to launch an agitation. He demanded that all cine stars resist dubbed content in the channels they work with.

When a channel began broadcasting a Hindi serial dubbed into Kannada in 2011, activists and artists had barged into the office and protested.

The business head of one channel said that managements are unlikely to begin broadcasting dubbed content immediately.

“Most channels run reality shows anchored by Kannada cine stars, which are crucial for TRP ratings, and most of them are opposed to dubbed content,” a senior executive from another channel said.

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