NEW DELHI :
Earlier this month, DD India, the English news channel owned by public service broadcaster Prasar Bharati, beat Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV to become the top rated television channel in the category. It was the first topple for Republic TV since its inception in May 2017.
Data from television monitoring agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) shows DD India posted 1.5 million impressions in the Republic Day week, largely on account of the celebrations, twice the number of the previous week.
The Republic Day coverage may have further boosted DD India’s viewership but the channel, which turned to the English language category as recently as January 2019, has been waiting in the wings to make its mark. “Until now, DD News, which is our primary news channel, was bilingual but reported by BARC in the Hindi genre only. As a result, its English viewership was never being measured in the right way. Last year, the Prasar Bharati board took a decision to develop DD India as our international channel also since India is the only country where the public broadcaster does not have one," said Shashi Shekhar Vempati, CEO, Prasar Bharati, citing examples like BBC and Russia Today.
BARC took about six months to monitor the channel, a time that was also required by DD to ramp up its English content.
“We want to build the platform as India’s voice globally, to put forth an Indian perspective on both domestic as well as international events. Since we’re talking of a world audience, the focus will be on strategic issues, foreign policy, defence and geopolitics, which we are not able to do currently because of the sheer domestic coverage," Vempati said.
DD India is only part of the broader strategy to revamp the DD network in 2019. Earlier this month, the Union cabinet approved providing the public broadcaster over ₹1,054 crore for a three-year period till 2020 for strengthening broadcast infrastructure and network development. Of this, an amount of ₹619.48 crore has been approved for Doordarshan.
“The entire network is looking at a revamp, in terms of the content strategy and all things you want on a television screen, be it the look and feel of the channel, the graphics on it, the way you present a particular idea or theme, the kind of feedback you get from your viewers, and the social media promotion and publication," said Supriya Sahu, director-general, Doordarshan.
New programmes like Rag Rag Mein Ganga, a travelogue featuring Rajeev Khandelwal, female edutainment show Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon and the Mahila Kisan Awards on DD Kisan are not just high on production values but present flagship programmes of the government in an informative and entertaining way. An upcoming show called Safar Manzilon Ka will have actor Manoj Bajpayee bringing unknown stories of swachhagrahis, people working towards the Swachh Bharat campaign.
“As a public service broadcaster, our content need not be boring or preachy or simple messaging that people don’t relate to. You can talk to people about health or education in a very interesting way," Sahu said. “This is just the beginning. We have a niche area, why not turn it into much more? We are changing the way we tell our stories," she said.
Sahu added that Doordarshan was no longer a loss-making organization. “We’ve posted operational profits for the past two years so we’re pushing hard to save our resources and invest. The year 2019 is a big one for us because we are on the path to reforms and reorganizing our terrestrial transmission," she added.