Challenge for new government to make DD India’s best broadcaster

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High time for DD to learn from BBC
From just one channel to over 700-800 channels, the Indian television industry has come a long way. But with this growth of the television industry Doordarshan has dramatically lost its viewership.

After it became India's first TV channel in 1959, the public broadcaster enjoyed a monopoly on viewership for decades. Even after private players came in 1992, Doordarshan enjoyed a 90 per cent share of the audience in the 1990s and had no reason to take the threat of competition seriously. The national broadcaster unlike minnow private television channels stopped from experimenting which resulted in its downfall.

On the other hand, the national broadcaster's British counterpart British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has always maintained pace with the passing time and remained a popular choice and went on to become a £5.102 billion enterprise in the Financial year 2012-13.

Modi Government to revamp Doordarshan along BBC lines

Doordarshan's revenues have continuously gone south after the introduction of satellite TV. In 1999-2000, DD earned revenues of Rs 6.1million as compared to Rs 3.99 million in 1998-99. However by the end of 2000-01, DD's honeymoon period was over. In 2000-01, DD's revenues were projected to grow at 6-15% while private channels projected 40-50% revenue growth. These sagging revenues of DD were only a tip of the iceberg. As with the passage of time, its rivals have not only made a firm ground but have also surpassed Doordarshan in terms of popularity as well as revenue.

Jawahar Sircar, after taking over as the chief executive of Prasar Bharati said, "A complete overhaul of DD's TV programmes, in both format and content, will draw the viewers that Doordarshan has lost to private satellite channels."

He further said that, "You bring out a good product, spend money, put in taste, autonomy and the right professionals, you will get the right product. You have the right product, you will get the right revenues."

DD model vs BBC model

One of the basic differences between DD and BBC is that the British broadcaster enjoys much more freedom as compared to its Indian counterpart, though both are statutory bodies. BBC provides impartial public service and can be critical against its Government's move, while DD has hardly ever criticised any Governments. Unlike the BBC, the Doordarshan doesn't have an independent editorial control.

Content wise too, the BBC is way advanced as it produces a wide variety of programmes and caters to a wider audience. On the other hand DD, produces out of fashion programmes and still functions on outdated equipment. Despite having a pan-India outreach, fails to match up to the needs of modern audiences and of all age groups. The BBC offers something or the other to its audiences both quality and content wise. Despite completing 50 years of its coming to existence, programmes DD features are too old.

World's oldest and largest national broadcaster (in terms of number of employees), BBC has adapted itself with the changing times. It has improved the quality of programmes and therefore has a global reach.

If DD wants to be in the top slot of viewer's, then it should give tough competition to others and set a high benchmark, but at present it is the other way round. That is what BBC has done. It has made its viewers used to very high standards of programming . As a result, private broadcasters in the UK are in a tough position as they have no other option other than moving out.

Problems of DD:

Doordarshan reaches all of India's 153 million TV homes but the question is how many of them really watch it? Yet, it made a loss of Rs 925 crore in March 2012 and has accumulated losses of over Rs 13,500 crore.

Not surprisingly, Doordarshan's programming is hopelessly outdated, forcing even dedicated viewers in rural strongholds to migrate to cable TV.

If we compare DD with other private channels, then it has 31,621 people to service just 10 million homes. Whereas, the Zee Group has 8,000 employees and generates over Rs 6,350 crore in revenues. Prasar Bharati has four times the number of employees that Zee does and generates one-fourth of the revenues.

Every government, irrespective of the party in power, has treated Doordarshan as an in-house mouthpiece. This is one of the major problems of the national broadcaster as it does not enjoy full autonomy.

How to get Doordarshan out of the rut:

To get DD anywhere close to BBC, not only change in technology and programming is needed but even the content needs a major overhaul. DD has not learnt from other players who have managed to stay in the competition. It lacks the in-depth understanding of the changing demands of people. To lure the audiences, global players try all the combinations, from the combo of information and entertainment to the combo of news and entertainment. The sole purpose remains just to give a product which is liked by the audiences.

DD lacks a connect with the people. It needs to put some sustained efforts in creating high quality content with strong marketing effort. In addition, it is imperative that DD should tie up with the best production houses to give better production quality which must be improved with investment in infrastructure and technology.

Not to forget the most important interface between the masses and the players, the social media. DD's presence in social media is absolutely miserable. What people want is entertainment; name of the broadcaster hardly matters.

At the recently concluded GoaFest, Information & Broadcasting Minister, Prakash Javadekar said, "It is my dream to make Doordarshan a success story. My mission is to make Doordarshan competitive and very prominent in the media universe."

DD recently undertook several new initiatives to reclaim its place under the sun. Earlier this month, DD revamped its prime time evening slot with five new shows. And in the coming months the channel plans to re-brand itself which is very much needed to bring itself at par with other global players and become the channel of India as BBC is for the audience of UK.

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