DD to use Hotbird satellite to reach out to Europe, West Asia and North Africa

NEW DELHI: Doordarshan will now be available on the direct-to-home (DTH) platform in the Free-to-Air (FTA) basic pack in the whole of Europe and Arab countries. This, as DD Freedish gets onboard EUTELSAT's Hotbird-13 B satellite.

This will help the public broadcaster project India’s viewpoint to the global audience in a cost effective manner. DD will be offered in the basic pack of the DTH service which does not require any individual to either subscribe or pay for viewing the channel.

This has been made possible with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar and the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) head of distribution (Asia) Dorothee Ulrichs.

Speaking on the occasion, Sircar said the MoU provided an important platform to position DD’s content globally. The content for the platform would be created based on the consultation with various stakeholders and the taste of the target audience.

Congratulating Prasar Bharati on the occasion, Culture Secretary Ravindra Singh said the MoU had given an opportunity to project India’s soft power to the world. 

The offer by DW is on extremely favourable terms and DD India does not even require a licence immediately.  The licence can be obtained within a period of one year if the experiment is successful.

Placing DD on Hotbird DTH platform will also give it full access to the Middle Eastern GCC countries, where Indians work and reside in large numbers.

Hotbird-13B is the most chosen satellite by European countries because of its polarity.  It has a reach of 120 million homes in the whole of Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. The DTH platform has a total number of 1543 TV channels of which 1117 TV channels are Free-to-Air. 124 English channels are available on this satellite, prominent amongst which are BBC, CNN, CCTV, RT, France24, VOA TV, Euromans, Sky News, Bloomberg TV, Al Jazeera, etc.  

While Independence Day was initially the target date for launch, it is now expected to be put off to either 15 September which marks the date Doordarshan first began telecast in 1959 or Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on 2 October as that will give sufficient time to plan the appropriate content.

Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar said that DD currently has a budget of Rs 2 crore to Rs 3 crore per year, for production of programmes, which has to go up and so other Ministries will need to pool in their resources/content for quality shows for the viewership abroad.

“Programming will be mainly accessed from archival material and current shows, apart from some live and deferred live content,” he added.

Sircar also admitted that DD India was available on Indian satellites to Europe, but this deal would help overcome the hurdle of getting people to see Doordarshan programmes. He said in India, DD Freedish continues to have the largest reach.

He said the programming was mostly in English and Hindi, but subtitling may be used where necessary.

Indian satellites reach around 34 countries, he said.

He said Australian Broadcasting Corporation was expected to come on board DD Freedish within the next few weeks, and France was proposing to beam to India via an Indian satellite.

Asked if the private channels which were beaming on the Freedish platform would also be able to reach Europe, he said DD Freedish had separate beams for public service broadcasters.

Ulriche said there was a possibility that this may lead to co-productions with DD. She denied reports that DW had cut down on its coverage of India. Speaking to on the sidelines, Ulriche said DW beamed to the world in four beams: English, German, Arabic and Spanish. Asia was reached through the Asiasat I satellite.

The five broad areas/regions to be covered are Central Asia, Middle East or West Asia, East Europe, West Europe and North Africa. The content would primarily target different cultures, keeping in mind the different languages of the regions like Turki, Persian, Arabic, French etc and English being reasonably the lingua franca.

The shows for the target audiences would be decided in consultation with the concerned Ministries who have experience and expertise in the various fields and assessing the cultural and political sensitivities of the areas. A few private series will continue to be broadcast with their own view point of India. 

Doordarshan has been trying since 1995 to build bridges of communication with Indians living abroad and also trying to showcase its diverse culture, values and rich heritage to the world by launching its first international channel.

Upon the expansion of this  international channel into 24x7 transmission, Doordarshan signed an agreement with Pan Am SAT (later Intelsat) for achieving global footprint of its international channel in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America by placing it on ‘C’ & ‘KU’ band of IS-10 , IS-906 and G-13 satellites.

In 2011, the services provided by Intelsat were dispensed with and the ccontract was terminated.

From March 2011, Doordarshan started availing the service of ISRO's INSAT-4B in both KU band & C band. However, the inadequacy of not being able to locate any significant global partners to distribute and connect DD to homes overseas continued.

In the past also DD did make efforts to distribute its international channel in various parts of the world but made little progress in the last mile distribution due to policies which did not permit large scale spending on carriage fees.

The pubcaster made renewed efforts through Indian missions to distribute its international channel abroad, but it could make little progress in this last mile distribution, because of several reasons. However, significant local partners could not be located to distribute and connect DD to homes overseas continued. 

Sircar said many stereo type systems need to be broken up and the Public Broadcaster can do better. On the other hand, countries like Japan, Germany, China, Russia, France etc have invested heavily between Rs 4000 crore and Rs 8000 crore to ensure a global reach for its international channels.  

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