Living in a democratic society as an author and a common person is like trying to seek an answer the difference between a channel like DD National and various privately owned channels. We must first think where the freedom of press is headed towards. May be the glitter of news presentation is driving young and fashionable minds more towards private channels. Digitization, huge branding and online platforms are also giving huge competition to DD National. Speed and exaggerations reach out to people faster than we admit. News content is brimming everywhere – but it is the filtering machinery that differentiates one channel from the other.
When Indian viewers began deserting the prosaic DD channel for more colourful private TV channels in early 2000, Prasar Bharati actually aided this exodus by driving away many talented producers. It’s control raj pomposity and never ending ‘demands’ resulted in numerous, indefensible court cases that weigh it down till today. National News broadcasting on Government run podium, or through private conglomerates, to ‘channelize’ news for the common masses, is the major goal for broadcasting channels. Any news channel can cater to news throughout the day to make people aware, to ask for their participation, to bring changes, and to elect what is right for them. Basically to involve everyone in the democratic system – one can listen to, hear, and watch news. The mighty medium of broadcast is therefore complex and fully strong.
But just to hold their ground in the wee ‘business of news’, some channels spread dirty linen among the public – some dramatise the content in varying levels, some run after news which dig into the personal zones of others, just to spice up the entire material – and finally, that lands the news material in trouble and also misguides common people. To be the voice of 120 billion people one particular channel is completely insufficient. There must be a machinery which can have variations as many as needed to satisfy the entire mass in one go. The possibility of this machinery is very lean as they say even the Almighty cannot satisfy all people at a single time.
One more reason behind the presence of various channels is that different political agendas back up the functioning of a particular channel or newspaper, as per their publicity and norms. So every government has declared that it is keen to improve Prasar Bharati but many have also ensured, or winked at, losses made by patronising sub-standard programmes. If someone is serious about DD channels, it has to decide once for all whether it has to maintain some 50 mini-TV stations, with hundreds of trained staff and enormous public investment in equipment, land and buildings in prime urban locations: to produce just 6 hours of programming in a whole week. Can a new corporate entity, therefore, be free to shut down most of DD’s 1,400 analogue TV towers because of negligible viewership?
The DD channel was an agency providing a window to creativity and to private enterprises, but today it has been totally left behind – whereas popularity is being earned by other private media houses. Media is a very complex, volatile world where speed, adaption, learning and re-learning matter the most. Unfortunately, the ‘genetic make-up’ of government servants is such that these essentials are not realized easily. You can’t blame them because it’s like telling a railway engine driver to fly a plane.
These issues call for completely different sets of skills. There is a high turn-around in the foreign public broadcasters, operating in the country. People come and go. But in India, getting a government job gives one an air to relax and dominate real talent, and to sabotage diligence among subordinates. Though there are exceptional pioneers and those with a good push, they are very few in number.
An issue such as the revival of the Doordarshan Network depends on a perfect partnership between the DD channels, Prasar Bharati and the government. However, there are forces within these organizations, that don’t understand, or want to understand the procedures. If there is perfect coordination between these institutions, we can certainly revive the DD Network. But we have a long way to go. Ever since Doordarshan shelved the auction plans after conducting two failed application rounds, Jawar Sircar, Ex Chief Executive Officer of Prasar Bharati (Doordarshan & All India Radio) has left no stone unturned to revive the process. The agenda was to discuss the suspended auction as well as Doordarshan’s future. Even though some leading production houses like Balaji Telefilms had evinced interest in the auction, Doordarshan decided to scrap it, citing shortcomings in the applications. An internal panel, scrutinizing the applications, found that certain applicants did not fit the eligibility criteria. While some had failed to submit the document fee, others did not submit the declaration that they had not been Doordarshan defaulters in the past. The auction was therefore scrapped.
Luckily for Doordarshan, Jawar Sircar eventually succeeded in reviving the auction with the help of the board: “The board of Prasar Bharati has unanimously resolved to execute the slot sale policy as a part of its ongoing efforts to make transactions more transparent.”
This episode sheds light on what ails the state-run broadcaster as it struggles to keep pace with competition from private television channels.Now finally we can draw a line that both Doordarshan and private channels are playing their parts. But Doordarshan must get back its glamour to continue with its ‘unadulterated’ news broadcasts peacefully, and come up with new methods to attract more and more viewers with the same simplicity and ‘genuine’ news for the masses, as of old.