Death-knell for DD News?

The news does not seem too good. Today's speculative leak that DD News is to be shut will come as a shocker to many. Especially to the high-profile producers who were commissioned to produce shows for DD News, ranging from Nalini Singh, Rajat Sharma and Anuradha Prasad's BAG Films (along with husband Rajiv Shukla) to Harish Thawani's Nimbus Communications which provides six hours of business news to the channel daily. 

Especially considering that the channel came up as a step child on 15 August 1999, and drifted around for a year. An agreement was signed with Modi Entertainment wherein it offered a minimum bank guarantee of Rs 48.1 million for every quarter until September 2005 for distributing boxes and collecting subscriptions from cable ops for DD News and DD Sports, which were both digitally encrypted. The deal was signed to increase the two channels' visibility in Indian homes. 

But apparently that has not happened (reportedly, the agreement fell through), neither have advertisers or sponsors come on board. The result reportedly: the Prasar Bharati board has started discussing whether DD News is a candidate for euthanasia as it is bleeding with no signs of the haemorrhaging stopping. 

Sources indicate the discussions are very preliminary, and no decisions have been taken. DD News currently gobbles up RS 300 million a year, a large chunk of which is doled out to private producers. 

Earlier this year, DD had asked these producers to promote their programmes on DD News to create awareness for the service. Apparently, the circular met with a lukewarm response with the channel failing to generate enough viewer awareness.

Reports are that the Prasar Bharati finds DD News too expensive to maintain and that it will gradually be phased out over the next six months. Replacing it will be a new channel offering a mix of kids, arts and literature related show. 

The board has also reportedly proposed that DD National will have 30 per cent of its programming devoted to news as a compensation for DD News blanking out. 

The announcement of a reported closure comes at a time when news and current affairs channels have taken centre stage following the terrorist attacks in New York. Viewers have been increasingly surfing into news channels to get an update on the latest developments, be it on CNN, BBC or Star News or DD News.

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