If all-clear given, DD News may resurface 15 September

Well, the news and current affairs (N&CA) genre of programming space is certainly hotting up for action.

Forget Sahara readying itself to have N&CA programming. Don't even think Star News under full control of the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star Group Ltd post March 2003 or Videocon's proposed news channel will be the last word in news.

The big daddy of broadcasters in India still by way of infrastructure and potential, Doordarshan, is firming up plans to re-launch DD News channel, shut down on January 26, 2002 after about 18 months of existence on air.

"There is certainly a move to revive the DD News channel," a senior official of Prasar Bharati Corporation (it oversees the functioning of DD and All India Radio) in Delhi revealed to, adding, "The proposal regarding this is slated to be discussed by the Prasar Bharati board on 3 July."

The rationale behind re-launching DD News: not enough of time is available on DD National or the main channel to disseminate all the news, which is now very much back in the news. But this comes with a rider - the bulk of programming, unlike during the earlier stint, of DD News will be done in-house.

One more indicator as to the grand plans that the national broadcaster is formulating is the infusion of fresh blood into Doordarshan. Prasar Bharati has recruited 22 young newscasters from across India with the help of AF Ferguson. Of the 22, eight will be news anchors and 14 will be trained as reporters and correspondents to be based in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

According to the Prasar Bharati official: "If the board approves the proposal, then the plan is to work towards having DD News back on air on the birthday of DD, which falls on September 15.

" And if viewership figures are any indication, then Prasar Bharati board has something to cheer about.

As per a recent presentation made by TAM to Prasar Bharati officials, the majority of people in even cable and satellite homes still watch news on DD.

According to TAM data, culled from 27 cities for the week ended 25 May, the daily evening news hour (2000-2100 hrs) on DD National had a share of 90 per cent among all news channels in all TV homes and 52 per cent share in C&S homes. Likewise, the weekday's morning news hour (0700-0800 hrs) on DD national commanded 89 per cent share in all homes and had 52 per cent share in C&S homes among all news channels.

"This indicates if we can get our act together properly, we can cash in on the credibility of news on DD and have a dedicated news channel," the Corporation official added.

Prasar Bharati is negotiating with TAM Media to invest in 2,000 additional peoplemeters (at the rate of about Rs 7,000 each) in semi-rural areas, which will help bring in focus the true reach of DD channels.

Learning from the "mistakes of the past", this time round DD News will give "more emphasis on generating N&CA programming in-house" instead of doling out a bulk of current affairs fare to influential media people as was the case on the erstwhile DD News.

Generating N&CA programming in-house will have a financial upside for Prasar Bharati too: the outflow of funds can be arrested. During its 18-odd-month existence, DD News had gobbled up investments to the tune of approximately Rs 1,520 million. "If the board gives its approval to DD News, this time round we can lower the outflow (of funds)," the official said.

Meanwhile, Prasar Bharati, a la private channels, also "presented" the new recruits to the capital's journos at a party hosted yesterday at the India International Center. The recruits have been drawn from organisations like Sahara TV, Zee TV, ANI and the Bangalore-based TMG. 

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