Would DD News oust private producers ?

NEW DELHI: Is Doordarshan News looking at axing privately produced programmes on the channel? If a certain section of the organization is to be believed, then such a move is afoot, though it may turn out to be a hot potato to handle.

Which are the top programmes on Doordarshan News, re-launched last November with a promise to make garbage of other channels? The Headlines, Rozana and 

Aankhon Dekhi (the latter two being privately produced programmes).

This fact is worrying the managers of Prasar Bharati, which manages Doordarshan and All India Radio. According to sources in the organisation, some Prasar Bharati board members feel that if DD News is to gain popularity via outside producers, then it would be difficult to market the channel in-house, despite consulting editor Deepak Chaurasia and gang doing a good job on the channel within certain limitations.

A Prasar Bharati source admitted that though it may not be easy, the Corporation is contemplating pulling the plug on private producers who make current affairs programmes on DD News on sponsored slots (that means they pay DD News a pre-designated amount for 30 minutes and are free to peddle the free commercial time for the slot, which amounts to about 220 seconds), from next month when their present 26-week agreements come to an end.

One such programme on rural India and agriculture has already been denied an extension, sending signals amongst private producers that this may set a precedent, sources said.

Though Prasar Bharati has introduced a revised rate card for DD News, with approximately a 20 per cent hike for packages and a whopping 66 per cent increase in spot buy rates from 1 April, market sources do admit that because deals are being signed in bulk and the whole channel is being marketed, the effective buying rate for DD news at times hovers around Rs 1,500-Rs1,700 per 10 seconds for bulk buyers.

This is in sharp contrast to sponsored programmes, which are privately produced. For example, one of the top programmes for DD News, Rozana, sells a 10 seconds spot for a sum ranging between Rs 6,500-Rs.7,000.

The private producers are quite clear. Their contention is that unlike DD, which has to market the whole news channel and is giving heavy bonuses to bulk buyers, they only have to market their individual programmes and can afford to charge slightly higher rates.

Even as there are talks of doing away with --- or lessening the number --- of private producers on DD News, Prasar Bharati has gone in for a 50 per cent increase in the rates for sponsored programmes --- from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 for prime time and from Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,500 for non prime time.

Though some big advertisers like State Bank of India and Kodak have already signed up Rs 7.5 million and Rs 2.5 million, respectively for three months on DD News, most such clients are also demanding top programmes on DD News and DD doesn't have control over some top rated programmes like Rozana and Bollywood News as they are produced by outsiders.

At present, about half a dozen private producers are on DD News. Would Prasar Bharati bite the bullet? Difficult to say at this moment because the issue has political overtones.

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