interview with Baljit Singh Lalli, chief executive officer, Prasar Bharati|
have stepped up work on digitalization for Prasar Bharati'
on 28 May 2007|
Singh Lalli, who took charge as chief executive officer of Prasar Bharati at the
end of December 2006, is an Indian Administrative Service officer of the 1971
batch from the Uttar Pradesh cadre with vast administrative and managerial experience
spanning over three decades.
an interview to indiantelevision.com's BB Nagpal, Lalli answered
various questions relating to the falling revenue of Doordarshan, the cricket
telecast rights controversies and other issues.
Doordarshans gross revenue fell by about Rs 1300 million to RS 8,182.2 million
in 2006-07, as compared to RS 9,469.6 million in 2005-06. But the gross revenue
of All India Radio rose marginally by RS 148.2 million to RS 2,836.5 million in
the same period. To what do you attribute these losses?
As you know, Doordarshan
has lost around RS 3400 million because it did not have the telecast rights for
cricket. If you do not count what we lost because of cricket, the revenues of
Doordarshan have actually gone up as far as other programmes go. But we have already
made up RS 2 billion. On the other hand, AIR earned just under RS 96.4 million
from the World Cup 2007.
Why is it that Prasar Bharati wakes up so late to bid for the cricket telecast
rights and then has to pass a mandatory sharing legislation?
answer that because it happened before I joined. But you must understand that
the amount for bidding for rights for up to five years is more than what a public
broadcaster can afford. As far as the legislation is concerned, it is necessary
to understand that the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines issued in November
2005 were clear on mandatory sharing of rights for terrestrial showing, but were
being violated by the rights holders.
a long time, Prasar Bharati has been talking of strengthening its marketing strategy,
but the results do not seem to be showing?
That is not true. As I said,
we have made up a lot of the losses caused because of not having telecast rights.
We have now taken steps to streamline the marketing procedures. Also, the attempt
is to bring in greater synergy between All India Radio and Doordarshan. We have
set up a committee and sent out new proposals to our marketing people in Mumbai,
Kolkata, Chennai, Guwahati and other places.
has already made more than five times the projected revenue from cricket. You
should also not forget that Prasar Bharati is a public broadcaster and cannot
resort to generating revenues the way some other channels can. At the same time,
we are now having closer monitoring of the marketing activity, and are also recruiting
professionals for the work.
A Comptroller and Auditor General Report talks of losses on various counts, including
arbitrary fixation of advertisement rates for feature films to favour certain
filmmakers. How will you ensure proper checks and balances?
I have not
seen the report so far, and in any case it relates to 2004-05. We have now put
a new system in place for acquiring films. We will now be able to get the best
films at competitive rates, through a policy that will be completely transparent.
The films will be selected in good time. The Grading Committee in Doordarshan
will then categorise the films as specified in the policy. No individual producer
or filmmaker will be shown favours of any kind.
An Acquisition Policy announced by Doordarshan to acquire quality programmes
has reportedly led to scams including submission of duplicate or blank tapes?
Yes, I am aware of this case. The matter relates to October-November last
year when new programmes were being acquired for the DD Urdu Channel. Our internal
inquiry showed that around 250 blank tapes had been submitted along with other
programmes. A committee of officers in Doordarshan is inquiring into the matter
and would be able to identify those guilty and action would be taken, irrespective
of whether it is only outside producers or someone within Doordarshan. As no money
had been paid to any producers so far, there is no question of any loss of revenue
on account of this. I am in principle opposed to acquiring old programmes, and
this had been done under a policy announced before I joined.
But this has already led to an order for transfer of senior officers in Doordarshan
who have been in their posts for more than six years?
That order has nothing
to do with the tapes. In fact, I issued that general order separately for transfer
at Supervisory levels. And all sections of employees have welcomed it. The section
of employees most affected by this, the Programme Staff Association of AIR and
DD, has sent me a letter welcoming this decision.
You had announced
earlier that Prasar Bharati would switchover to the Indian satellite Insat-4B
by June. Is that work on schedule and how many transponders will you be using?
Yes, we are shifting DD Direct, the Direct-to-Home service, to the Insat-4B
from 1 June. We have been assured by the Indian Space Research Organisation that
we will not face any shortage of transponders. We will initially be using five
transponders but can ask for more whenever needed.
shift from the Netherlands-based NSS 6 will not only mean savings in foreign exchange,
but also clarity in picture since the Indian satellite is better placed than the
European satellite. Prasar Bharati pays NSS around RS 225 million annually. The
initiative was motivated by patriotic instincts. Insat-4B is located in a geostationary
orbit of 93.5 degrees East, which is closer to Indian than NSS 6, which is located
at 95 degrees East.
What about the commitment by Isro to Sun TV because of the loss of Insat-4C?
I am aware of the reported commitment by Isro, but this will not affect DDs
requirement. The Insat-4B has 12 KU band and as many C band transponders for communication
and broadcasting services. DD Direct will be able to beam up to 10 channels from
each transponder. It presently beams around 32 channels of which 26 are its own,
but this number is expected to go up to 50 with private FTA channels becoming
What are you doing to effect a smooth transition to Insat-4B?
held meetings with cable operators, hardware manufacturers and multi system operators
to familiarize them with the changes that will have to be made to reach out to
4.8 million viewers of the free-to-air DD Direct. Doordarshan has circulated a
four-page brochure to educate viewers and service providers about the changes
to be made to their dish antennae and in the set top boxes. Though the service
providers will make these changes, this can be done even by subscribers themselves.
Each antenna has to be rotated (with the person standing behind the dish antenna)
clockwise by 1.5 degrees to the right and tilted up by 1.5 degrees.
would be available across five transponders in the KU Band on Insat-4B, on the
frequencies 10990, 11070, 11150, 11490 and 11570 MHz on vertical polarisation
and a uniform symbol rate of 27500 ksps.
have now taken steps to streamline the marketing procedures. Also, the attempt
is to bring in greater synergy between All India Radio and Doordarshan'
Will DD Direct continue to be Free-to-air?
For the present, yes. We do
not see it becoming encrypted in the near future.
Planning Commissions Sub-Group on Going Digital has recommended
that Doordarshan should commence digital terrestrial transmission by the 2010
Commonwealth Games, and should have a phased approach for going digital covering
all the seven mega cities by 2011 in the first phase and the rest of the country
Yes, the Report had also recommended a group chaired by me with
some private broadcasters like Star, Zee, Sony, Eenadu etc. and their major MSOs
to examine an 11-stage process. We will also consider introduction of HDTV in
a phased manner starting from Delhi (2008-09), extending it to all the six mega
cities to ensure coverage of Commonwealth Games in HDTV format in 2010.
made some proposals which are with the Planning Commission. In fact, this is a
major thrust area in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. I personally met officials of
the Planning Commission recently and gave a projection of RS 5000 crore (RS 50
Prasar Bharati begun working on plans for optimum coverage of the Commonwealth
Yes. In fact, I have had one meeting with Mr Suresh Kalmadi, President
of the Indian Olympic Association and Chairman of the Organising Committee for
the Games, and told him we will need financial support for adequate coverage of
the Games. I will be meeting him again shortly.
Technical Group had been set up to examine Encryption Mandate for DD signals,
particularly for cricket telecasts. There appears to be a lot of disagreement
among members of the Group on the issue. What is the position about this?|
Yes, the Ministry had set up a Group headed by AIR Director General Brajeshwar
Singh to go into the issue. The report of the Group has already been submitted
to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, and perhaps you should be asking
the question there. As far as I know, the report was unanimous.
Bharati had announced a policy on telecasting series based on Indian Classics.
What is the progress on that front? |
The work is going as planned. The
Committee met recently and cleared twenty to twenty-five proposals related to
Hindi, Punjabi, Bangla, Gujarati and Telugu classics. Filmmakers like MS Sathyu,
Gulzar and Muzaffar Ali have been commissioned for some of the classics.
concerned Parliamentary Standing Committee has expressed its displeasure over
the progress in Digitalisation and building of archives for Prasar Bharati? |
We have stepped up the work on digitalization. We will be able to work even
after the Archives are shifted to the Central Production Centre Building in Sirifort
Village. This will be done in the next two or three months after DD News shifts
to the DD Building in the Mandi House area. Meanwhile, digitalization of broadcasting
in the public broadcaster would be completed by 2017. Out of the 64 Doordarshan
studio centers, 17 had been fully digitalized while another 30 were partly digitalized.
DD India is available via Satellite all over the world, but there are few takers
even in countries with large Indian population. DD has had to tie up with local
cable operators in the United Kingdom recently. What are you doing to popularized
Indian channels in other countries?
Doordarshan has launched two channels
DD India and DD News in the United Kingdom with the help of Rayat Television Enterprises
Ltd. following an agreement with Prasar Bharati for the distribution of these
channels in UK for a period of five years.
India has seven Hindi and six English news bulletins daily, while DD News has
19 English and 24 Hindi news bulletins daily respectively. Although both these
satellite channels are free to air and could be seen anywhere in the world, this
is the second time that Prasar Bharati has entered into an agreement with a distributor
to ensure the channels reach viewers homes.
Bharati also has a similar arrangement in the United States with companies owned
by persons of Indian origin. The aim will also be to reach out in the Middle East,
Malaysia, the rest of Europe, Canada and so on, and the broadcaster has invited
Expressions of Interest from entrepreneurs in these countries.
Prasar Bharati Act has provision for Broadcasting Council which never came into
existence. Will this become redundant under the new Bill that provides for a Regulatory
I think you should ask the Ministry to answer that question.
I can only tell you that we have urged the Ministry to strengthen our hands, and
have asked for extra funds to be invested in public service broadcasting.
Doordarshan has launched the Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld (DVB-H)
as a Pilot Project in Delhi. What about other cities?|
The Pilot Project
is aimed at reaching mobile phones within a radius of 12 kilometers of the Doordarshan
television tower on Parliament Street in New Delhi. After watching the outcome
of the launch of this service in Delhi, the system will be replicated in Mumbai,
Kolkata, and Chennai. The service is initially free to air and the channels available
are DD National (DD 1), DD News, DD Bharati, DD Sports, DD Urdu, DD Punjabi, DD
Bangla and DD Podhigai. The scheme is vendor neutral and any mobile
provider with a compatible handset can download the signals and transmit them.
I hope the number of channels would be raised to ten to 15 in the next few months.
There have been promises for increasing a scientific temper in the country through
the media. The private channels have not done much, and DDs efforts in the
initial years also appear to have come to a stop?|
That is not true. We
recently launched Mike Pandeys series at an appropriate time, and have commissioned
the Bedi Brothers to make a new series. We have finalised an MoU with Vigyan Prasar
of the Department of Science and Technology to encourage a scientific temper.
Programmes have been made earlier also for Science Channel which is a joint venture
of Isro and Vigyan Prasar under Department of Science and Technology (DST). Till
August 2006, 60 episodes have been transmitted. The programmes are being transmitted
on DD-1 as a 30-minute capsule, and programmes are aimed at children in the age
group 12 to 18.
What specific programmes are being telecast to mark 150 years of the freedom struggle?|
DD has identified a series of programmes from its own archives, like Bharat
Ek Khoj by Shyam Benegal based on Jawaharlal Nehrus The Discovery
of India, Swaraj by Manju Singh, and Colours of Freedom by Buddhadeb
Dasgupta. DD has also commenced telecast of Dr Girish Karnads series Swarajnama.
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