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Doordarshan to go global

MUMBAI: A lot of questions have been raised about the efficiency and profitability of Doordarshan in recent times. But the Narendra Modi-led BJP government is ensuring that the pubcaster is effectively used to broadcast important information and news not just in India but also to global audiences.

After stating that all breaking news should first be aired on Doordarshan, the new government is set to take the broadcaster to overseas markets.

Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry officials told The Economic Times that in January next year, DD will be beamed free of cost to 120 million homes across Europe and the Middle East.

Post the Maharashtra polls, I&B minister Prakash Javadekar will hold the first inter-ministerial meeting of secretaries of ministries of external affairs, information and broadcasting, tourism, culture and home affairs to finalise the content to be delivered to outside countries.

Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar further told ET that the meeting is likely to set a deadline and chalk out a consultative group for the project. “We need to finalise right content to project a new, dynamic India,” he said.

Doordarshan will have to be showcased and defined by content that audiences in these countries understand and accept, Sircar stated. He also suggested forming an expert advice of ambassadors and TV professionals who have foreign experience.

The pubcaster’s international aspirations received wings after Prasar Bharati signed an agreement with the German public service broadcaster Deutsche Welle earlier to distribute DD’s international channel abroad.

“Deutsche Welle vacated a slot on the popular Euro Hotbird satellite and we gave them one in India. This will be DD’s first-ever presence in the west as the new government gave us a go-ahead,” an official told ET.

DD now will get the platform of Hotbird-13B, a direct-to-home (DTH) medium which reaches Europe, Northern Africa and the whole of Middle East with 1,543 TV channels, out of which 1,117 are free-to-air.

Besides this, DD has also revived a project of digitisation of archaic terrestrial transmitters to enable viewers in 10 cities across the country to watch the 20 channels of DD and private channels streamed by Prasar Bharati on mobile smartphones, tablets and laptops for free.

The broadcaster is now seriously looking to gain back its lost viewership with distinct programmes by leveraging its infrastructure and accessing popular content from its rich archives.

DD first launched its international channel DD World in March 1995, which was renamed DD India in 2002. It had then stated that Indian cultural and social programmes uplinked from New Delhi could be watched in 38 countries across the world through INSAT-4B and INSAT-3A satellites, but the project did not work out as there was no down-linker available to take the feed to TV homes in these countries.

Furthermore, Indian embassies could not do much due to marketing and budgetary constraints and lack of expertise in media marketing.