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chat Discovery Science turns the focus on taking science outside classrooms

going glocalRahul Johri
going glocalRahul Johri

“Knowledge is cool. It’s never gone out of fashion,” asserts Rahul Johri, senior vice president and general manager, South Asia, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, explaining the network’s decision to launch the Hindi language feed of Discovery Science. The 24-hour channel will now be available on analogue and DTH platforms including Tata Sky, Dish TV, Videocon D2H and Airtel Digital TV as a paid-for channel.

But if knowledge and science are indeed eternally fashionable, what took so long for the launch to come about?

“India is primarily an analogue market. In such a scenario, channel capacity is very limited as the choice rests with the cable operator. But with the country heading towards digitalisation, capacity constraints are eliminated. The market is perfectly poised for a science channel. There is tremendous curiosity among people, and the success of Discovery channel proves this,” explains Johri.

It was in anticipation of digitalisation that the network launched its Turbo, Kids and Discovery Tamil channels in 2010.

Coinciding with the launch of the Hindi feed, Discovery Science has announced five series which will air over the next three months. “Prophets of Science Fiction” tells stories of the strange lives of visionaries; “Dark Matters” exposes some of history’s most bizarre experiments; “Alien Encounters” explores the possibility of alien life existing and communicating with Earth; “How Tech Works” features future technologies; and “Combat Tech” looks at military technologies and accomplishments therein.

The content of the channel is drawn from other regions owing to a number of reasons. Johri explains, “Science is not country-specific. It is also very expensive to generate this content. So it is only natural that different regions share content. The biggest localisation happens at the level of language; and it helps that we are predominantly a commentary-based channel. Commentary in local languages makes the content interesting.”

“There is a logical path to a channel. First, there is international content; then, as a channel matures, you will see some amount of local content,” he adds, pointing to the example of TLC. Discovery Science will have “matured” by 2014, which is the year by which the digitalisation process is expected to finish.

The channel’s mission is to popularise science, says Johri. But in the popularisation of what, in conventional wisdom at least, is a dry subject, does the channel have to dramatise it? “There are different treatments for different topics, and we try to make the content engaging and enriching.”

The popularisation of science is also the mandate of Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous organisation under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, which has developed programmes for Doordarshan and Lok Sabha TV. Doordarshan also telecasts series such as “Turning Point” to popularise science. Says Johri, “How we film is very different. We are trying to take science outside the classrooms.”

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