Television

Prasar Bharati’s channel of autonomy

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Seldom have government ventures succeeded in democratic India for variety of beliefs and prejudices.  Inherent security has ensured complacency in government servants with invisible accountability resulting in almost every public sector unit crashing gradually but also becoming liability to the exchequer. 

Such ailing commercial initiatives are numerous like Air India, IDPL and HMT to name a few.  As for pure government, the performance is not even measured to stem the existing rot.  The nation coughs up large sums on salaries to maintain archaic British systems founded on in fructuous and dilatory work culture. 

Doordarshan and AIR, the once monopolistic moghuls of video and audio arms of Information & Broadcasting Ministry, with 48000 staff and huge infrastructure as part of Prasar Bharati are under siege from the commercial private channels. The staff is till date government employees on deemed deputation status with no powers to Prasar Bharati to infuse fresh blood or promote them in the last two decades of its existence resulting in a chaotic work force with rock bottom morale with no regulation of conditions of service for employees. Most programmers of Prasar Bharati have long forgotten to produce quality content, the cadre having been decimated over the years and the engineering cadre too losing sheen with administrative impediments and faulty staff pattern, with 1:10 teeth-to-tail ratio. 

As of today, Prasar Bharati must be the only government funded organisation with 25 cutting edge vacancies of Additional Director Generals out of 33 and 148 Deputy Director Generals out of 151 in the programme cadre creating a painful vacuum of leadership that is meant for content creation leaving the reign of DD and AIR Kendras to lower officials or to broadcast engineers by default.  Though well intentioned, Prasar Bharati, the national public service broadcaster, remains a still born child even today with shadow of government continuing despite an Act of Parliament that envisaged emergence of a BBC like institution to educate, inform and entertain people of India and Indian origin abroad. 

Successive governments could not correct the infirmity due to inflexible approach and archaic regulations providing a sure recipe for self-destruction and resulting in natural downfall in TV ratings and Doordarshan seriously lacking audience connect.  While talking of arm’s length in governing, Prasar Bharati, the successive government’s depicted its autonomy as an oxymoron which never exists in real life. 

But for the first time ever, after taking over, Minister of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) said, “My aim was to make Doordarshan and state-run All India Radio first choice of viewers.”  Living up to the expectations, the minister has blessed Doordarshan on their maiden effort to reach Indian diaspora through Deutsche Welle, Germany’s Public Service Broadcaster, by riding DD India, the international channel on its Hotbird 13B satellite with the reciprocal arrangement of showing each other’s channel in their bouquets in DTH platform. 

‘Hotbird’ has a total of whopping 1117 free-to-air TV channels with 124 English language channels to include BBC, CNN, CCTV, France 24, EuroNews, Al-Jazeera to name a few.  This satellite being the most chosen one by European countries because of its polarisiation and technical reach of 120 million TV homes in Europe, North Africa and Middle East, Prasar Bharati undoubtedly could not have got a better opportunity. 

Being a public broadcaster, Prasar Bharati cannot compare itself with other commercially driven private channels of India as far as telecasting current Indian views and heralding the cause of fine arts showcasing heritage of India and cultural diversity through vibrant content being planned for ‘DD India’. 

Government of India was spending to the tune of Rs 24 crore-Rs 30 crore per annum since 1995 to 2011 by hiring transponder of ‘PanAmsat’ later ‘IntelSat’ without last mile connectivity and insignificant viewership. Kudos to Jawhar Sircar and team that has ensured Doordarshan reaches to 120 million viewers across the globe to witness India as it dawns through a new image Doordarshan. 

Countries like Japan, China, Russia and France spend between Rs 4000 and Rs 8000 crore per annum to ensure global reach for their international channels. Prasar Bharati on its part strongly aims at a content strategy considering cultural and other sensitivities of countries that would receive Doordarshan transmission with closer cooperation with Ministries of External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs as it rides on its maiden success in recent times truly blessed by the new government. 

For Prasar Bharati, light seems to be at the end of the tunnel with our new Minister and his practical positivity.  “Faith is the promise of tomorrow.”

(These are purely personal views of Prasar Bharati senior advisor VAM Hussain and indiantelevision.com does not subscribe to these views.)

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