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‘Causal’ employees root of DD’s faux pas?

MUMBAI: Public broadcaster Doordarshan has drawn flak for its overall functioning and policies. However, DD officials have a ‘human’ explanation of the whole thing: It’s the casual or temporary employees who are responsible for the gaffes.

Doordarshan was in the news recently when a video of a Doordarshan anchor making several gaffes at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa went viral on social media. Two months ago, another anchor used a roman numeral to address Chinese President Xi Jinping during the leader’s tour of India.

A reporter also used names commonly associated with secessionists such as Islamabad for Anantnag and Suleiman Hill for Shankaracharya Hill while reporting on the J&K deluge. Adding to its string of embarrassments, DD also used a picture of former PM Manmohan Singh in place of Narendra Modi in a news item.

Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar told Economic Times, “With just 10 of the 191 required supervisors working, checking has become difficult. Also, people are watching DD more, so more mistakes are being reported.”

However, officials blame the lapses on the growing dependence on casual reporters for reading news and anchoring programmes since vacancies have not been filled in the organisation for the past two decades.

Reportedly, DD has over 18,000 vacancies, which has led to the disintegration of the programming section, officials at Prasar Bharati told ET. It added that the channel survives on ‘adhocism’ by taking people on contractual or casual basis, which is a far cry from the government’s ambition of elevating DD to the level of the best public broadcasters in the world.

The report further states that the channel does not have a skill test mechanism to train and test anchors and journalists before they go on air, mainly because it is opposed by a section of people who feel it is discriminatory.

The casual reporters are generally hired on contractual basis. They are often not trained for more than two hours on basic camera management skills prior to the live coverage of an event.

DD officials say that the supervisory programme cadre with trained professionals for looking at last-minute mistakes by anchors has become almost defunct due to vacancies that have not been filled.