Mumbai: From being part of a team performing the first successful open-heart surgery in the US to starting the first 24-hour Indian-owned television channel and launching the first Indian-owned radio network in that country, Dr Banad Viswanath has done it all.
Running the first Indian Television show in US for the last 30 years, Viswanath is also running an FM Channel for Indians for the last five years.
Last week his Asian FM had tied up with Anil Dhirubhai Ambani’s Big 92.7 FM, a private player in India for providing local content.
Viswanath said: “Being the only provider of 24 hours of Asian music, we wished to bring the true picture of India to the people living in the US. On that note, we found the content of 92.7 FM suitable.”
Viswanath, born and brought up in Karnataka moved to America in 1962 after obtaining a medical degree.
“I realised that people from the Indian sub continent were looked upon as people from a third world country with third world problems. This might have been somewhat true before I arrived, but I felt it was my duty to inform the people around me that India was more than what they saw in the American media,” says Viswanath on the force that drove him to launch Vision of Asia, the first Indian Television show in the US in 1976.
“India is a country with a great heritage, culture, and vision that was not shown on TV screens in the US,” he adds.
The initial response to the show from the Indian community there, says the heart specialist, was overwhelming.
“It was a ‘must see´ show every Sunday Morning before one ventured out to do their weekend shopping or see a movie in the cinema. We had captured the hearts of all,” Viswanath told PTI through e-mail.
In 1978, two years after the launch of Vision of Asia, distributors who sold movie rights to the show hiked their prices and it was not possible to pay for the rights and the air time to the channel as well.
In order to generate funds “we started the first Indian Talent show, including local and visiting artists. It was a big hit. Our production unit expanded tremendously and we had to waitlist many artists for the show”, he said.
Ten years after Vision of Asia, in 1986, the Viswanaths launched US’ first Indian-owned 24-hour channel, ITV catering to the entire South Asian and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) population in New York and parts of New Jersey.
“Our goal is not only to engage the listeners with popular entertainment but also to provide information, so no one is left behind in terms of knowledge. We also provide local and national news, cover Bollywood, political discussions, medical shows and shows in Gujarati, Tamil, Kannada and Punjabi.”
In 2002, Viswanath launched Asian FM, the largest Indian terrestrial FM channel in America, another first, catering to PIO population in five states there.
He subsequently launched Asian FM USA, a subscriber-based radio channel covering the entire United States.
Viswanath said, “As a physician, I am committed to my patients and they are my first priority. However, after my clinic hours, I spend the time at the studio office, looking after the vision I started.”
He called his family as the most important pillar of support.
“India has a great resource in bright people. I am sure just as the computer chip has become faster exponentially, India will show even greater achievements,” he added.