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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Concluding Remarks

The growth of television in the developing world over the last two decades has been extraordinary. Estimates suggest that the number of television sets in Asia has increased more than six-fold, from 100 million to 650 million, since the 1980s (Thomas, 2003). In China, television exposure grew from 18 million people in 1977 to 1 billion by 1995 (Thomas, 2003). In more recent years, satellite and cable television availability has increased dramatically. Again in China, the number of people with satellite access increased from just 270,000 in 1991 to 14 million by 2005. Further, these numbers are likely to understate the change in the number of people for whom television is available, since a single television is often watched by many.

While television was first introduced to India in 1959, for the first three decades almost all broadcasting was in the hands of the state, and the content was primarily focused towards news or information about economic development. The most significant innovation in terms of both content and viewership was the introduction of satellite television in the early 1990s. In the 5 years from 2001 to 2006 about 30 million households, representing approximately 150 million individuals, added cable service (National Readership Studies Council 2006). And since television is often watched with family and friends by those without a television or cable, the growth in actual access or exposure to cable is likely to have been even more dramatic. The program offerings on cable television are quite different than government programming. The most popular shows tend to be game shows and soap operas. For example, among the most popular shows in both 2000 and 2007 (based on Indian Nielsen ratings) is “Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi,” (Because a Mother-in-Law was Once a Daughter-in-Law, too) a show based around the life of a wealthy industrial family in the large city of Mumbai. As can be seen from the title, the main themes and plots of the show revolve around issues of family and gender. The introduction of television appears in general to have had large effects on Indian society. This is particularly the case for gender, since this is an area where the lives of rural viewer's differ greatly from those depicted on most popular shows. By virtue of the fact that the most popular Indian serials take place in urban settings, women depicted on these shows are typically much more emancipated than rural women. Further, in many cases there is access to Western television, where these behaviours differ even more markedly from rural India. Based on anthropological reports, this seems to have affected attitudes within India. Some of the respondents have demonstrated that the information and exposure provided by television can influence a wide range of attitudes and behaviour. It was also found that television viewership in the Muslim world affects attitudes towards the West, and show large effects of the Fox News channel on voting patterns in the United States. In the developing world, the results show that television decreases participation in social organizations along with exposure to soap operas reduces fertility. The picture clearly indicates that India has not been left out of the cable and satellite revolution: a recent survey finds that 112 million households in India own a television, with 61 percent of those homes having cable or satellite service (National Readership Studies Council 2006). This figure represents a doubling in cable access in just five years from a previous survey. The survey finds that in some states, the change has been even more dramatic; in the span of just 10-15 years since it first became available, cable or satellite penetration has reached an astonishing 60 percent in states such as Tamil Nadu, even though the average income is below the World Bank poverty line of two dollars per person per day. Beyond providing entertainment, television vastly increases both the availability of information about the outside world and exposure to other ways of life. This is especially true for remote, rural villages, where several ethnographic and anthropological studies have suggested that television is the primary channel through which households get information about life outside their village. Most popular cable programming features urban settings where lifestyles differ in prominent and salient ways from those in rural areas. For example, many characters on popular soap operas have more education, want to have late marriage and have smaller families, that are rarely found in rural areas; and many female characters working outside their home, sometimes as professionals, running businesses or in other positions of authority. Anthropological accounts suggest that the growth of TV in rural areas has had large effects on a wide range of day-to-day lifestyle behaviours, including toilet building and fan usage. Yet there have been few rigorous empirical studies of the impacts of this dramatic expansion in cable access that may have had on social and demographic outcomes. As such a trial has been done to explore the effect of the introduction of cable television in rural areas of India on a particular set of values and behaviors, namely attitudes towards and discrimination against women. Although issues of gender equality are important throughout the world, they are particularly salient in India. It was also argued that there were millions of “missing women” in India – women and girls who died prematurely due to mistreatment – resulting in a dramatically male oriented population. The population bias towards male sex has its worse effects in the last two decades, as sex-selective abortion has become more widely used to avoid female births. More broadly, girls in India are discriminated against in nutrition, medical care, vaccination and education. Even within India, gender inequality is significantly worse in rural than in urban areas. By exposing rural households to urban attitudes and values, cable and satellite television may lead to improvements in status for rural women. It is this possibility that can be explore through this study.

With the help of the primary data collected through the primary survey in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh, It can be conculded that cable television has large effects on women's and children's health status. After cable being introduced tovarious village, there are significant changes in gender attitudes regarding the health status and health awarness: women are less likely to report that it is acceptable for them to positively influence by health related programmes on TV, and less likely to express a preference for sons. Behaviours traditionally associated with women's status also change: women report increased autonomy (for example, the ability to go out without permission and to participate in household decision-making regarding their health care and sanitation) and lower fertility. In terms of magnitude, the effects are quite large- for example, the introduction of cable decreases the differences in attitudes and behaviours between urban and rural areas by 45 to 70 percent. Further, these effects happen quickly, with observable impacts in the first year following cable introduction. This is consistent with existing work on the effects of media exposure, which typically find rapid changes (within a few months, in many cases) in behaviours like the use of contraceptives, pregnancy, toilet building and perception of own-village. A central empirical concern is the possibility that trends in other variables (for example, “income” or “modernity”) affect both cable access and women's status. We argue that this does not appear to be the case, first showing visually that there are no pre-existing differential trends in women's status for villages that do and do not add cable, and that the timing of changes in outcomes is closely aligned with the introduction of cable, and second, that the outcomes are not correlated with future cable access.

Policy-makers and academics often argue that a significant benefit of improved status for women is increment in investments on children (World Bank 2001, 2006). Although our ability to look at children's outcomes is limited, we are able to look at the effects of cable access on school enrollment. Using both our household panel data and administrative data for roughly 401 respondents in the state of Varanasi District, we provide evidence that the introduction of cable increases school enrollment for younger children. Although the enrollment data have some limitations relative to the data on women's status, we see large effects of cable that also appears to increase over time. Again, we argue these results are not driven by pre-existing trends in the outcome variables. The results are potentially quite important for policy. As noted, a large literature in economics, sociology and anthropology has explored the underlying causes of discrimination against women in India, highlighting the dowry system, low levels of female education, bad health status, and other socioeconomic factors as central factors. And while progress has been made in these areas, changing the underlying factors behind low levels of education, women's status and high fertility has proven to be very difficult; introducing television, or reducing any barriers to its spread, may be less so.

One of the primary objectives of this program is to enable women, particularly in rural areas, to “acquire knowledge for health care of women & children and social development”. Therefore, our results also provide insight into the potential impact of this unique and non-traditional strategy that can have on critical policy priorities. From a policy perspective, however, there are potential concerns about whether the changes in reported attitudes, such as towards health care, domestic violence or son preference, represent changes in behaviours, or just in reporting. For example, we may be concerned that exposure to television only changes what the respondent thinks the interviewer wants to hear about the acceptability of health care programme in their regular life. This is less of a concern in the case of autonomy and fertility, where women are asked about their actual behaviour (and for fertility, there is less scope for misreporting since both pregnancies and recent births are likely to be observable by the interviewer). In addition, the fact that we find effects on education in administrative data provides support for an effect of cable on behavior. Without directly observing people in their homes, however, it is difficult to conclusively separate changes in reporting from changes in behavior. However, even if cable only changes what is reported, it still may represent progress: changing the television in India and discusses existing anthropological and ethnographic evidence on the impact of television on health care of Indian society, as well as the determinants of cable placement.

Though television might lead women to question their social position and might help the cause of female advancement, some women reported that, because of television, men and women are able to “open up a lot more”. It was also found that there were number of respondents describing changes in gender roles as a result of television. One man notes, “Since TV has come to our village, women are doing less work than before. They only want to watch TV. So we [men] have to do more work. Many times I help my wife clean the house.” There is also a broader literature on the effects of television exposure on social and demographic outcomes in other countries. Many studies find effects on a variety of outcomes: for example, eating disorders, sex role stereotypes, and perceptions of women's rights. Telenovelas in Brazil have provided a fruitful context for studying the effects of television. For example, based on ethnographic research, It can be argued that exposure to telenovelas provides women (in particular) with alternative models of what role they might play in society. One can describe the effect of television introduction in this country changed the framework of social interactions, increased general world knowledge and changed people's perceptions about the status of their village in the wider world. On similar data from isolated areas, we can argue that the introduction of television affects (among other things) views on gender, moving individuals in these areas towards having more liberal views on the role of women in both the workplace and in relationships. Along with these, closely related to one of our outcomes,  report declines in fertility in response to access to telenovelas; and also found changes in naming patterns of children, with the names of main characters featured on these programs increasing in popularity. Interestingly, the ethnographic and anthropological studies  suggest that the patterns of viewing shortly after television is first introduced may be quite different than what is seen later on. The evidence suggests that in the first years after introduction, interactions with the television are more intense, with the television drawing more focus (both at an individual level, and community-wide). It is during this early period that television is at its most influential. Most of the villages in our analysis are at this early stage of television exposure, suggesting this may be an ideal period to look for effects. Nevertheless, the overall impression given by the anthropology and sociology literature is that the introduction of television has widespread effects on society, and that gender and social issues are a particular focal point. Our data and setting provide an opportunity to test this hypothesis more rigorously.

Accessibility of Cable Programmes

In moving to a more quantitative analysis of the impacts of television along with cable networks, we must recognize that variation in access is certainly non-random. Therefore, understanding the determinants of the timing and placement of cable is important for our ability to attribute changes in women's status to the introduction of cable itself. To determine what drives the introduction of cable, we first conducted interviews with cable operators in Varanasi District. In these interviews, the operators emphasized two primary considerations: access to electricity and distance to the nearest town or city. Electricity is, of course, a fundamental requirement for television. Distance is important because most operators who provide service to rural villages reside in towns or cities. Greater distances (i.e. more remote villages) increase the operator's costs, since they often must personally travel to the village to monitor the cable set-up (to ensure it is working properly and that no unauthorized users are connecting to it), collect payments, make repairs or update equipment, or add new subscribers. For the most remote villages, a single trip could require an entire day. As a result, villages closest to larger towns are served first, with more distant villages only being covered after the more profitable villages are taken. Income was less often mentioned by operators as a constraint, since charges for cable access are small   (about Rs. 100-150 per month); though in separate interviews with companies marketing televisions, this was more of a concern. Overall, most cable operators reported that variation in access was driven largely by costs, and changes in costs, on the part of the providers themselves, rather than being demand-driven. In fact, several cable operators stated that they believed demand was universal, and the only constraint on provision was the operator's costs. In addition to these interviews, we also conducted a survey of cable operators in Varanasi District, gathering information on cable access.

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