Zee Tamil: A New Challenger in Singapore Media?

This year marks a special milestone in Indian mainstream media. Its signifies 10 years since Vasantham's inception as an Independent Tamil- language channel on 19 October 2008.
Credits: Mediacorp Vasantham Facebook Page Cover Image

Vasantham is a Singaporean free-to-air television channel that is owned by Mediacorp. The network is focused towards the Singaporean Indian community in the country. Originally launched on 1 September 1995 as Premiere 12,  Tamil programming was included on 30 January 2000 when the channel was rebranded as Central, and was later rebranded again as an independent Tamil-language channel, Vasantham in 2008.

The channel has grown from strength to strength in the past decade. We have had many programmes of excellent quality. Yes, there were some really crappy ones that made the cut too.But which network is not guilty of making mistakes.

Over the years, Vasantham has made an active effort to be more representative of the diverse Indian diaspora by including Non-Tamil programmes to also cater to non Tamil speaking Indians. When Vasantham started out, it was pretty much able to monopolise the mainstream media space. Today, that is one crowded space. We have the likes of Vijay TV, Sun TV, Kalaignar TV, Jaya TV, Colours TV that compete for the Singapore Indian's time and attention.

While all these channels from India have a separate but collective feed for the international markets (that's why you will see advertisements for Indian retail businesses based in Europe on Vijay TV etc),  Zee Tamil in Singapore has taken a step nobody has before. Not too long ago, it announced that it will be launching a dedicated feed just for Singapore alone. Prior to this, they were already producing programmes from Singapore like Dance Singapore Dance etc.

2018 has been an exciting year for Zee in Singapore. A few months ago, the channel presented a an initiative called SHEventures. The objective was to showcase success stories of women entrepreneurs in Singapore. Recently, i came across a programme titled "தமிழோடு விளையோடு".

Well, it would have been similar to any other Tamil Language based programme, except for the curious sighting of Thamizhavel G. Sarangapani in the main poster. He was pretty much the leader of the Tamil Language in Singapore.

Sarangapani was also active as a Tamil writer and publisher in his own right. In 1929 he set up the magazine Munnetram (Progress), and in 1935 he launched Tamil Murasu, which remains Singapore's only daily Tamil newspaper. He was also a founder of the Tamils Reform Association, and served as its Chairman and Secretary at various points. Through his publications and the Association, Sarangapani promoted the importance of education, as well as denouncing the Hindu caste system, superstitions and alcoholism.

He was part of campaigns to make Tamil one of the four official languages of Singapore, as well as having it taught in Singapore schools from the primary to tertiary level. He also helped set up the Department of Indian Studies at the University of Malaya in Singapore. Sarangapani also urged Tamils to embrace Singapore as their home.

His inclusion in the main poster is evidence of Zee Tamil in trying to promote the Tamil Language in Singapore. With Vasantham having a monopoly of sorts in the mainstream media and the financial backing of the Government, it will be tough for Zee Tamil to break this stronghold. As it is, rumour has it, that the local channel apparently frowns upon its artistes, regardless of any contractual obligation, to appear in other channels.  While this may not be an express rule / practice of sorts, the sentiment of the artistes themselves seem to suggest the pseudo-existence of some sort of embargo.

However, with Vasantham utitlising the same crop of faces, the emergence of Zee Tamil may provide other talents the opportunity that they have been waiting for. Either way, it really depends on Zee Tamil, how it wants to take this forward. Our advise to the channel is not to fight the incumbent on its strengths, ie the dramas etc. but rather be creative and create a segment that the channel has ignored or not concentrating on.

May the best channel win


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