Media with a conscience

Media with a conscience

When a company reaches nearly 790 million viewers every month, it has great power and even greater responsibility. It’s not just about the pressure of constantly creating new content, clearing big budgets or competing for television ratings. It’s about the opportunity to influence and inspire the lives of a billion people – the power to drive social change in India.

“No matter what part of media you work in, if you are not using it to create a better society, then you are missing an opportunity.”
Uday Shankar - President, The Walt Disney Company APAC, Chairman, Star & Disney India

Stirring change across society

While India has made huge advances in social reforms, it is still a work-in-progress endeavour. We believe that our stories can create social change.

Whether it’s pressing social or political issues or topics that are considered too taboo to even mention, if our content is not harnessing the power of television to create meaningful change, then we have failed.

Star News: India’s first 24/7 news channel

Television was introduced to India in 1959 as an experimental telecast in Delhi with a small transmitter and a make shift studio. For over 30 years, there was only the state controlled Doordarshan. The economic liberalisation of 1991 eliminated the boundaries and opened opportunities. That’s when Star India was founded. With satellite dishes appearing on every rooftop, the world came to the living room. This bold step was taken when the government in power considered 'live news' to be dangerous.

Satellite dishes in Dharavi, Mumbai

In 1998, the world of news changed forever. Star launched India’s first 24/7 news channel, Star News. It offered Indian viewers real news stories with programming to further their global consciousness. Indians began to see themselves as members of the global community. And Star was helping to lead the cultural revolution, opening India to the rest of the world.

Connecting with an aspirational India

With the economic boom after the reforms, India had changed. The Indian middle-class aspired for more. Star introduced new content to meet their needs. We launched 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' (KBC), an adaptation of the famous game show 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' in 2000.

With a maximum prize of ₹1 crore and the host, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, the show became an instant hit. Millions across India took to developing and increasing their general knowledge about the world around them. Gripped by the charm and the financial opportunity, three weeks after it began, three million people registered in just one single day, jamming KBC's phone lines!

KBC’s social impact

While most of the participants were from middle-class India, KBC's format ensured anybody could participate. The social problems connected with caste, religion and language and personal growth, which for millions had been impediments, were now immaterial. It was based on merit – what mattered was how much general knowledge a participant had.

KBC dramatically transformed the lives of many families who were struggling to make ends meet. The prize money helped them start new businesses, build homes and pay for expensive medical treatment for their loved ones which was simply unaffordable before. It was so successful that movie director Danny Boyle created 'Slumdog Millionaire', a film about the show in 2008. For India, Star had become synonymous with upward mobility.

Talking seriously with Satyamev Jayate

On May 6, 2012, India waited for the clock to strike 11 on a hot Sunday morning. One and a half hours later, when Satyamev Jayate’s host, Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan, ended the show, we had achieved the unthinkable.

Aamir Khan in 'Satyamev Jayate'

For the first time, India had witnessed a programme that discussed the country’s most important and sensitive social issues: female foeticide, child sexual and drug abuse, medical malpractice, domestic violence, alcohol addiction, rape, caste and untouchability and more. Families sat and watched 'Satyamev Jayate' together. Villages, towns and cities wept as India’s underbelly was exposed. The aim was clear: let’s discuss as a nation, let’s change as a nation.

Seeding change with 'Satyamev Jayate'

The Aamir-Uday factor

For Uday Shankar, a socially relevant programme was on his mind from when he was at Star News. Four years later, when Shankar met with Aamir Khan to gauge his interest on making a debut on television, the star told him he wasn’t interested in regular entertainment shows. That’s when Shankar revived his old idea and he asked:

“Should we use the power of television to do something that will change this country?”
Uday Shankar

A few discussions later, Aamir was on board. A year on, after he and his team researched the issues, they decided on a format. 'Satyamev Jayate' was launched in seven languages and was also telecast on the government-run Doordarshan to reach maximum number of people. The rest is history.

“What excites me about television is its power and reach, its enormous potential to connect with people.”
Aamir Khan, Satyamev Jayate

Unprecedented impact

India embraced the programme on a Sunday morning – which was considered a dead slot – only reiterating our belief that quality content is king. Satyamev Jayate registered a 462% increase in viewership ratings over the course of the series, and became the most talked about show in the world in May 2012. 517 million Indians watched the first season – that’s 3 out of every 4 viewers.

The public response was so overwhelming, the government had to act and change policies. After the episode on female foeticide, women in different pockets of India came out and protested against the murder of the female child.

Data revealed in the Census of India shows, within two years of the episode, Maharashtra saw a reversal of two decades of gender ratio decline. The state government even acknowledged the role the show played in creating awareness and helping transform the situation. In Rajasthan, after the show, the high court approved a fast track court to prosecute cases of female foeticide. The episode on fighting against rape shook the nation again by bringing to the forefront the trauma faced by survivors, especially by the insensitivity of the police and doctors. The survivors of sexual assault, activists and medical experts explained how the system suspected a victim of rape rather than empathising with her trauma. In one of the biggest reforms, the Union Government finally passed an ordinance banning invasive tests on rape survivors. Following the programme on child sexual abuse, the first ever bill protecting children from sexual abuse was passed by Parliament. The punishment of sexual crimes against children was increased with the maximum punishment now being a life term.

Aamir and Uday pay their respects at the memorial of an impoverished villager Dashrath Manjhi whose heroic story of paving a road through the mountain over a hard and solitary labor of 22 years – was profiled in the final episode of season 1

Honouring extraordinary people

Amitabh Bachchan made a comeback to the Star family. To honour brave and extraordinary Indians for their selfless acts of courage and bravery, we launched 'Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi' in 2015.

Amitabh Bachchan in 'Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi'
“When I heard about 'Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi', I instantly connected with it. I genuinely believe that media is a powerful vehicle to inspire change but we have to achieve this in an entertaining manner.”
Amitabh Bachchan, Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi

The series starred sixty heroes who recounted their stories of valour and were then congratulated by Bachchan who would also invite other celebrities in each episode. The aim was to recognise the people whose contributions had not been acknowledged by society or the media, and to celebrate and cherish these qualities. 'Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi' was widely revered for highlighting real life stories of great deeds. It not just motivated those being honoured but also inspired ordinary citizens to become beacons of change in their own lives.

Fighting crime with Savdhaan India

With crime rising across India, we encouraged our viewers to fight against crime through our show 'Savdhaan India', aired on our entertainment channel, Life Ok.

Real life incidents are recreated, highlighting crimes such as dowry, domestic abuse, child sexual abuse, ragging, sexual harassment, casteism, superstitions, medical malpractices and many more. Each episode is an attempt to not just create awareness but also to inspire and encourage viewers to fight against crime.

The show portrayed criminal minds and how they operate by showcasing real life incidents. We believe the popular programme helped by showing that a crime can be avoided if people are alert.

Suraksha Utsav in Lucknow

We organised a contact programme, Suraksha Utsav for 15 days, across 25 schools in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh – a state that has one of the highest crime rates in India. The event equipped people with the tools and methods to avoid being a victim of crime – including self-defence, first aid, accident protocol and emergencies numbers.

Inspiring A Billion Imaginations with progressive values

Our purpose is to inspire a billion imaginations. It’s a promise that we live by every day.

Imagine more
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