With intentions to outreach the mammoth of Indian diaspora and put across India’s outlook on various domestic and global affairs, the Indian ministry of Information and Broadcasting, is contemplating expansion of Doordarshan’s (Government of India’s official broadcaster) 24-hours broadcast to around 100 nations. Currently, India’s official broadcaster – Doordarshan’s (DD India) 24-hour programme transmits news, cultural and general entertainment programmes for the diaspora in countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). To amplify these broadcasts, the Indian Information and Broadcasting ministry is considering expansion of its DD 24-hour news airwaves to around 100 nations, directed at reaching out to the Indian diaspora and table the country’s approach on various national and international issues.
The development will put India in the league of countries including the UK and China whose public broadcasters reach a number of nations. More than 30 million Indians living abroad are valued not just for their strength in numbers but also for how they retain and represent the best of Indian cultures, ethics and values, irrespective of their locations. The broadcast extension will allow these overseas Indians to engage with the government regarding their issues of concern, to explore opportunities for investment in India and contribute to the country of their origin.
Population of Indian diaspora
According to the sources, the list of countries where the channel could be telecast would depend on a number of factors including the population of Indian diaspora, arrival of tourists from the country, foreign direct investment from the country among others. The ministry is working on the list of countries based on these factors. Currently, DD India primarily produces various cultural and general entertainment programmes for broadcast in overseas countries.
It also produces round-the-clock news and current affairs programmes for broadcast in only a few countries, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China and the United Arab Emirates but the ministry wants to expand the number of countries it reaches to. The government’s official information and news provider has been trying to expand its reach in various spheres. Recently Prasar Bharti has also decided to expand itself in the front of sports events. Starting with the on-going India Vs South Africa ODI, all sports events, especially cricket matches could be aired in remote parts of the country through local radio channels. As far as international reach of radio is concerned, AIR already has an online application through which is broadcasts all its shows for the international audience.
“The purpose of the proposed initiative is to reach out to the huge Indian diaspora and put across India’s perspective on various domestic and international issues,” the official said. The initiative would put India in the league of countries like the UK and China whose public broadcasters reach a number of countries.
Union information and broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani said the timing is right, and the market ready, for the state-owned broadcaster to launch a news channel focused on India for the international market, although she added that no decision has been taken on this yet. She said “Many regulations have lapsed. We have to minimise the interference of the government, but because I&B is a sensitive area, there are many regulations that need to be reviewed. Second, I need to increase the efficiency of how we work, because this is the first time in the history of the I&B ministry that we have eight zones specially set up (as communication hubs for the government). Zone-wise, state-wise, our communication has to be strengthened. Third, my big focus is on communication in local and regional languages. And I am hoping that the CEO of Prasar Bharti can make some big-bang changes.”
According to Irani, the big priorities for the I&B ministry are to minimise the interference of the government, but because I&B is a sensitive area, there are many regulations that need to be reviewed. “I need to increase the efficiency of how we work, because this is the first time in the history of the I&B ministry that we have eight zones specially set up (as communication hubs for the government). Zone-wise, state-wise, our communication has to be strengthened. My third big focus is on communication in local and regional languages,” she said hoping that the CEO of Prasar Bharati can make some big-bang changes.
But Irani is not in the habit of casting aspersions at random. “The facts at hand are simply that we do not have details on many aspects related to ratings agency BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council), and when BARC gives us that information I can make a more informed decision. As things stand, there’s very little understanding of BARC in the public domain,” she said. She said that there have to be more voices from regional media and language-based media houses — editors, creators. “On budget day, when DD was the only channel with the finance minister and ministry officials, we saw a 582 per cent growth in viewership,” she added.