Doordarshan should run a kids channel

MUMBAI: Like its counterparts in UK and Australia, why doesn‘t India boast of a channel targeted at kids? That was the theme of a panel discussion at Ficci Frames 2013.

Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar, who was expected to take part in the panel discussion, was conspicuous by his absence. The session that was supposed to discuss and deliberate upon the importance of a public kids‘ broadcaster went without government representation.

The panelists comprised CFSI chairman Amol Gupte, Graphiti Multimedia chairman Ram Mohan, and International Advertising Association-India Chapter (IAA-IC) Secretary at Monica Tata. Graphiti Multimedia COO Munjal Shroff was moderator of the session.

Tata, who was earlier with Turner International and was managing kids channels Cartoon Network and Pogo, said it was imperative for the government to enter the kids broadcasting space as part of its larger social responsibility.

According to Tata, Doordarshan, the television arm of Prasar Bharati, with its huge reach through terestrial cable will go a long way in reaching kids who don‘t have access to quality content.

Graphiti Multimedia chairman Ram Mohan, also known as father of Indian animation, felt a public-private partnership would go a long way in making this initiative a success.

He also felt that a public-owned kids broadcaster would also give a fillip to Indian animation industry besides serving the larger social good - that of helping kids to develop life skills.

The panelists agreed that the first step was to convince the government to launch such a channel. The content of the channel can be decided later.

Tata believes that the channel should have content that is educating but also entertaining at the same time.

CFSI chairman Amol Gupte feels that the time has come for the government to put its foot down and get working on the channel.

Children, he noted, are exposed to all sorts of crass content that is having a negative impact on them. A DD kids channel would go a long way in plugging that need gap.

Bennett Coleman and Company Limited (BCCL) Director AP Parigi feels the government should provide the highway to create centres of excellence in kids‘ broadcasting.

He also reckoned that the government should have a incubation period of at least five years for the channel before it becomes viable. The curriculum of government-run schools should have synergy with the kids channel.

While saying that the public kids channel should be a viable option, Tata felt that viability is a subjective term when it comes to a public enterprise.

Graphiti‘s Munjal Shroff pointed out that the Ficci Media & Entertainment committee has been lobbying for the last four years with the Prasar Bharati to launch a kids channel without much success.

Shroff also revealed that Sircar has promised to look into the issue. The plan, he further revealed, was to have a dedicated slot on DD which would later be spun-off into a full-fledged channel.

The panelists urged the small gathering to take the issue up with the government to get them to fast-track the process of launching a children-centric channel.

Gupte said, "We need advocacy groups to tell the government that this kind of a channel is the need of the hour as part of its larger social responsibility."

The panelists also felt that a Sesame Street kind of an initiative to give children from under-privileged background a platform to learn skills should be replicated in India. Sesame Street is a long-running American children‘s television series. In India it airs on Cartoon Network as well as on DD.

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