Entitlements have a peculiar tendency to masquerade as rights.
Ardent fans of the modest television would have observed a recent trend of different content being telecasted on HD channels vis-a-vis the non-HD ones. This phenomenon is extremely instructive in explaining the way societies operate. In a not-so distant future I see the below mentioned scenario becoming a social reality.
Gradually the entertainment divide will grow. Star HD 42 will telecast the Football World Cup (live) whereas Star 42 channel will show Kho-Kho (live with endless reruns) from Jhumri Talaiyaa. Sony HD will telecast reruns of Sherlock while the Sony non-HD viewers will have to make do with CID season 42, episodes 12304-12350.
This blatant stratification and discrimination will spark a row of protests from the disadvantaged groups who will demand that such differential telecasting leads to an inequitable society. The arguments would be made on the following lines:
- Entertainment is a basic human right. Entertainment leads to a happy society. So it is the duty of the State to ensure free and fair entertainment to all its people.
- A study will emerge to that children of parents who own HD TVs are likely to do better than the children whose parents don’t because the former watch serials like “HowStuffWorks” on Discovery HD while the latter are forced to watch “Krishi-Darshan” on Discovery non-HD. A doctor will be quoted saying “Being entertained well is necessary for the wholesome development of personalities of children”.
- Showing good content only to the rich who can afford to buy HD TVs is essentially inequality of opportunity.
The popular opposition will galvanize people and eventually the government will be forced to take notice. After due diligence, the government will introduce a Right to be Entertained whereby the government will provide free HDTVs to all households. The funds will be obtained by levying an additional entertainment cess of 0.5%.
Though this example might seem far fetched today, it is definitely possible in the days to come. What it illustrates is that we need to differentiate between rights and entitlements. Many entitlements have a tendency to masquerade as rights. A State’s duty must be to provide for basic rights and not mass entitlements.