News channel option still open for Prasar Bharati

NEW DELHI: Prasar Bharati is still dreaming of a news channel in the Doordarshan stable. And rightly so.

In a two-day board, held yesterday and today, Prasar Bharati board members dwelt on the importance of a news channel as part of a vision ahead of national broadcaster DD celebrating its 43rd birthday on 15 September.

"Though it was not exactly said in so many words that DD should revive its news channel, but one of the points discussed as part of future of DD was the need and importance of having a news channel with Prasar Bharati (read Doordarshan)," a senior Prasar Bharati official who attended the board meeting told

Some months back, senior Doordarshan and Prasar Bharati officials had gone on record telling the media, including, that there was a plan to revive the now-defunct DD News with the probable unveiling happening on 15 September. This was followed by hot denials, of course, after the information and broadcasting ministry `unofficially' said there was no such moves and that the government was not thinking on those lines either.

Does the "vision" mean that Prasar Bharati will go ahead and revive DD News? "Well, the agenda of the board meeting did not spell it out in such clear terms, but the underlying feeling during a discussion was that a separate DD news channel is of utmost importance, especially if Doordarshan and All India Radio are to continue playing their role of public broadcaster effectively," the Prasar Bharati official said.

The official, however, clarified that apart from a short discussion on the importance of a news channel, the board members took nothing formal up in this regard.

Prasar Bharati had closed down DD News, a satellite channel, in January earlier this year after about 18 months of being on air. During this period the channel had failed to get adequate visibility owing to the reluctance of cable operators to put the channel on prime band ahead of the likes of Zee News, Star News, Aaj Tak and even CNBC India. A treatment which is being meted out to DD Sports also despite a government diktat that at least three DD channels ought to be on the prime band.

Meanwhile, the Prasar Bharati board, which had primarily met to bid farewell to its chairman Prof UR Rao who resigned last month citing personal reasons, also discussed matters relating to training of its employees and beefing up operations in non-urban areas, amongst other things, corporation sources said.

Prasar Bharati Corporation, an autonomous body formed under an Act of the Indian Parliament in the late 1990s, oversees the functioning of DD and AIR, two of the biggest broadcasters in the world. Since it was part of the information and broadcasting ministry officially till some years back, the corporation also carries a baggage of over 40,000 employees who, according to several panels set up to look into the restructuring of DD and AIR, are making the corporation lethargic and inefficient considering the vast infrastructure at its disposal. It has also been stressed that Prasar Bharati needs to shed weight and fast.

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