As Dharm stirs the rather demure religious channel category, Anuj Kumar gathers the details
In the last few months, the nursery rhyme “Ba Ba Black Sheep” has acquired a whole new meaning. To some extent the religious channels, which provide many a self proclaimed baba a free run, are also responsible for creating an obfuscation between the divine and the mundane. Now, we have a new channel called Dharm, which promises to take the genre away from the paradigm of discourses. “The channels that we have now, largely depend on the footage of discourses. For the first time we have a religious channel that is creating in-house content,” says Prajnan Bhattacharya, the managing director of the channel.
A seasoned media professional, Bhattacharya has previously played crucial role in launching channels like Pragya and Katayani, which fall in the similar bracket. While Pragya is more of a spiritual channel, Bhattacharya says Dharm will focus on the religious aspect of Hinduism, Jainism and to some extent Buddhism. “In the beginning, we are targeting the Hindi speaking belt. We have acquired rights for 30 religious films and will showcase an epical series on Ramakrishna Paramhans. We are also working on a grand music based reality show, Bhajan Sangram, where for the first time, the focus will be on religious music but participants can sing the film version of aartis. We are going to up sub-divisional level to unearth the talent.”
Temples of India
Bhattacharya says the channel will also focus on the temples of India. “With Bharat Ke Mandir we will take audience to an important temple every week and relate the architectural and religious significance of the temple.”
As for the competition from channels like Aastha and Sanskar, which have a considerable following, Bhattacharya claims Baba Ramdev has acquired both the channels. “We all know Baba Ramdev has political aspirations and he is using the channels for his own propaganda. There is a vacuum for serious discourses and there are spiritual gurus who are not getting space on these channels. We will provide them a platform.” He cites the example of Gopal Muni, who talks about the link between religion and environmental issues.
We hardly find any advertisement support for such channels, but Bhattacharya says Dharm will rely on ad revenue and will keep an eye on TRPs. “Our pockets are not too deep. We are open to all kind of advertisements including aerated drinks and contraceptives. I don't see any harm if a soft drink major backs our talent hunt. However, we won't run surrogate ads of liquor.”
He observes cable operators don't find religious channels too attractive and they have to pay a substantial carriage fee.
“This is a reality we have to live with. Same is true for DTH platforms. But there is considerable demand for such channels in the West. Dharm will soon be available on WAP, IPTV and video-on-demand in Europe.”
As for propagating superstitions, Bhattacharya says the channel will help in clearing myths.
“In Metros, the nuclear families often struggle to find the right way to practise rituals during festivals. Sometimes small things like how to wear a dhoti becomes a problem. Programmes like Vidhi Vidhan and Riti Rivaj will try to clear the confusion.”