Big B to star in public service campaigns to clear ABCL dues

NEW DELHI: `Doordarshan means desh darshan (watching DD means watching the whole country). Yeh, main Amitabh Bchchan bol rahan hoon.' Soon the Big B may be mouthing such lines in social messages related to India's pubcaster's massive reach exclusively on DD channels. And that too free of cost.



The Prasar Bharati board in a meeting today okayed a formula that would help Bachchan retire the dues that his company AB Corp, formerly ABCL, owes to DD in lieu of programmes that were produced for DD, but failed to generate much revenue.

Though Bachchan had paid up over Rs 195 million in 2001 of the total dues that his company owed to DD, the interest component amounting to Rs 125 million remains to be paid.

The Prasar Bharati board has agreed, after trying in vain to evaluate the market price of Bachchan, that the best known face of Indian cinema and also TV would be used in a series of about 10 campaigns on DD. These campaigns would be construed to be valued at par with the amount that AB Corp still owes DD.

Prasar Bharati is an autonomous organization that manages the affairs of DD and All India Radio and survives mostly on financial aid doled out by the government annually. In recent times the organization has been under pressure to narrow the gap between its annual expenditure and income.

Though as part of another formula it had been suggested that Bachchan do some shows for DD free of cost to settle his dues, the plan does not seem to have worked out. It is now expected that the Big B would endorse various social messages instead.

The decision of Prasar Bharati was also hastened by a request from the Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction, a body to which bankrupt companies are referred, which said that it would be in the interest of AB Corp that it settles all its dues as soon s possible before the BIFR okays the financial reorganization.

Considering that some big corporate houses like ICICI, Dabur Foods Ltd., Nerolac Paints and even the health department of the government (in polio eradication campaigns) use Bachchan effectively to push products and the company profile, it remains to be seen whether DD can imaginatively use the Big B's brand equity.

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