Science & TechnologyDD channels to be streamed free on smartphones

DD channels to be streamed free on smartphones

Telecast programmes in Europe, Middle East

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NEW DELHI — Doordarshan might be in the limelight for its controversial decision to telecast live RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s Vijaya Dashami address, but life for the national broadcaster is only set to become more exciting with the Narendra Modi government’s increasing emphasis on state-run media.

For starters, the broadcaster’s 30-year-old dream of going global may finally come true in January next year when it will be beamed free of cost to 120 million homes East, say I&B ministry officials.

After 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 these countries.

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

“The new aspirations of India have to be portrayed in a manner that European and Middle Eastern audiences would appreciate and understand. Expert advice of ambassadors who have worked in these countries would be useful, as would be those of TV professionals who have foreign experience,” he said.

DD has also revived a project of digitisation of archaic terrestrial transmitters, and if things go as planned, viewers in 10 cities across the country would be able to watch the 20 channels of DD and private channels streamed by Prasar Bharati on mobile smartphones, tablets or laptops for free in a few months.

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I&B officials said the plan to go international acquired a fresh life after Prasar Bharti signed an agreement with German public service broadcaster Deutsche Welle to distribute DD’s international channel abroad, and things have been moving at a fast pace ever since.

The first time DD opened its window to the world was in March 1995 when it launched its international channel DD World, which was renamed DD India in 2002. While it was promised that Indian cultural and social programmes up-linked from New Delhi could be watched in 38 countries across the world through INSAT-4B and INSAT-3A satellites, the project did not work out as planned.

“All these years, the programmes were only pumped up from here but not downlinked in these countries, so they could never reach people there. No down-linker was available to take the feed to TV homes in these countries. Indian embassies could not do much as there were marketing and budgetary constraints as also a lack of expertise in media marketing,” an official said.

Hundreds of crores were spent on this exercise that did not yield any result, recall DD old-timers. In 2013, when the UPA government wanted full services for international broadcast, a project with an estimate of Rs 3,000 crore a year was proposed by DD but it was not considered mostly due to financial reasons.

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International public broadcasters such as BBC or those in China, Japan or France are known to spend over Rs 4,000 crore a year on channels to project their nations in foreign countries. “So we looked for an economic partnership with a foreign public broadcaster that could offer us easy direct access to TV homes. Germany’s Deutsche Welle agreed and 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,” said a senior official.

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

“The present government has shown much interest in utilising the potential of DD that reaches 170 million TV households directly. We are seriously looking at gaining back lost viewership with distinctive, high-quality programmes and interesting content, leveraging our infrastructure, access and rich archives,” said another official in the I&B ministry.

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