Media personalities look back on what it was like to be a part of the new medium then...
I was one of the first news readers in India, we had no facilities at that time…but there was an adventure and thrill to that. But now it’s a different ball game. There are so many channels that there is an insane desire to break stories whether they are stories or not. In the process news also dies a natural death.
In 50 years Doordarshan has successfully driven away its viewers to all the other private channels. This is because in reality it has no independence, it’s not an autonomous body and its news is not impartial and it’s controlled by the ruling party. The entertainment programmes are much better than on the private channels but Doordarshan has also driven away the advertisers to the private channels. I have also witnessed a lot of irresponsible journalism being practised by the private channels. But at the same time they are also free and fair in their judgements.
I think even though Doordarshan has morphed into Prasar Bharati it remains a government department and not an autonomous body. This was a golden opportunity that DD missed as it had the chance of becoming the public face of broadcasting in India. It still has the talent. Outside of DD it could do a lot but within the framework its limitations were stifling.
I don’t think private channels are using the advancement of technology in the best possible way. There is no sense of balance as seen recently during the helicopter crash of Y.S.R. Reddy. In terms of tone, there is a lot of drama and sensation with anchors trying to shock you. Television has a place in living room, so why should anybody shout?
In those days we lacked in technologyparticularly the visual part. I remember I requested the then I&B minister Vasant Sathe to have a mechanism so that we have content and visual links from different parts of the world for the weekly world news programme. The editorial control was a lot more stringent. When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was trailing in the Lok Sabha election we were not allowed to carry the news despite agency reports clearly indicating that she was going to lose. It was only when she decisively lost that we carried the news. I don’t think it is possible now in the highly competitive environment. The tonal quality of Doordarshan is still better than the private satellite channels.
News has become a lot pictorial but a lot noisy as well. I personally feel news has to be presented in a sober way with immaculate presentation but what we are seeing is substandard. All kinds of nuqtas have been done away with. Even if a section of the audience wants dilution, the media’s responsibility is to lead and uphold values.
Those were the days...
I joined DD in 1977 and have the distinction of reading the first colour bulletin, first national bulletin and the first to read a bulletin through a tele-prompter. Those were exciting times. There was no recording facility as even VHS hadn’t come by then. We had to work under extreme conditions but there was a great camaraderie. Once I had to read news for 33 minutes without a break. Sometimes air conditioning didn’t work. There was no wardrobe allowance, no conveyance allowance and we used to get Rs.75 to read a news bulletin. We had no formal training but despite that every news reader had an identity. These days we lack anchors and reporters who have a ‘TV presence’.
(See “Age of innocence”, Page 4 for more recollections.)
As told to ANUJ KUMAR in Delhi and ARCHANA SUBRAMANIAN in Chennai.