The Doordarshan logo
When was the last time you watched something on Doordarshan? I remember the last time I watched something on Doordarshan was Turning Point. I also watched London Olympics on DD Sports recently. Ever since 1991, Doordarshan has become less and less popular, only to be mentioned in the movies like a fossil found by the Archeological Survey of India.
Being a state controlled public broadcaster it has the responsibility to give quality programs of education, entertainment, and infotainment without any hassle. But it is not been able to draw viewers. Some of the youth born after liberalization of the economy may not even know it exists. Just like the BBC, can it go the nonprofit way? Can it have editorial control of its content? Can it decide on its own about what events it has to cover or what programs it has to produce?
Doordarshan is a division of Prasar Bharti which is the largest broadcasting organization in India in terms of reach, studio, and infrastructure. It has a good reach but it does not dominate in households who watch cable and satellite television. Mr. Modi when campaigning for the 2014 elections had made an attack on the government for not giving Doordarshan the autonomy it deserved. Most of its assets are not transferred to Prasar Bharti.
Doordarshan has the reach but no viewership. It should be able to compete with the privately owned channels like Star Network which is successful. But for this to happen the government should be willing to lose control over it, which is ‘its own space’. Like proposed by the previous BJP government it has to be made NOT accountable to the government of the day.
Modi had a run in with Doordarshan during his campaign. He has now two choices. Disband Doordarshan or give it complete autonomy, while autonomy will be the most preferred option. Let’s see if Modi comes through with making this a reality because autonomy without access to finance and ability to call the shots is useless.