Ramayan brought back DD to centre stage: Prasar Bharati CEO

Vempati says they have started a channel dedicated to carrying news, informational videos on coronavirus to tackle COVID-19

Amid widespread criticism for re-telecast of epics Ramayan and Mahabharat in the time of countrywide lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic, Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati has said the decision to pull these and other old Doordarshan serials was taken six months ago and the re-telecast had brought back brand Doordarshan to the centre stage.

Mr. Vempati, in an interview to The Hindu, said, “It would not be appropriate for me to comment on political criticism. Section 12 subsection 3 of the Prasar Bharati Act which lays down the functions of the public broadcaster speaks of Prasar Bharati’s role in educating, entertaining the citizens as well as on preserving the cultural diversity of India.” Telecasting the epics was very much in line with this mandate given by Parliament to Prasar Bharati. The decisions to re-acquire Ramayan and Mahabharat along with others was taken in November last year, he said.

A few would know, he said, that the most popular artefact from All India Radio’s archives was the complete audio rendition of Ramcharit Manas. The BARC figures and overwhelming feedback on social media underscored the huge popularity of these serials. “The Internet generation has no memory of Doordarshan. The re-telecast of these serials has brought brand DD back to the centre stage,” Mr. Vempati added.

Playing its role in curbing COVID-19, Mr. Vempati said Prasar Bharati had started a special channel dedicated to carrying news and informational videos on coronavirus. “Both DD News and AIR News have created a special COVID Bulletin twice a day in English and Hindi with a designated slot. A dedicated channel has been designated on DD FreeDish to continuously stream COVID-19 informational videos and news. The same is also available digitally via YouTube,” Mr. Vempati added.

Contingency plan

As a contingency plan, the national news streams on both TV and Radio had been made accessible to all the regional services as a fall-back mechanism so that no channel or station went blank during the lockdown. Even vacant slots on DD Free Dish were continuously streaming COVID-19 information during this period, the CEO said.

The newly launched Prasar Bharati News Service has been under severe criticism for its overzealous role in slamming international news outlets like the most recent example of BBC for its Delhi riots coverage, which the PBNS claimed, was “one-sided.” “As far being critical of international media goes, the public broadcaster is well within its mandate as laid down under Section 12 subsection 3 of the Act to uphold India’s unity and integrity,” Mr. Vempati said.

He said creation of a digital news platform was the mandate of the Board from back in 2016. It is too early to comment on revenues. “However, overall, Prasar Bharati digital revenues have, for the first time, crossed the one crore milestone in the financial year 2019-2020, and are growing at an accelerated pace,” he added.

External services

He denied that the external services, one of the oldest sections of All India Radio catering to an international audience, had been discontinued. With the short wave operations suspended during the lockdown, Mr. Vempati said the external services were very much active through NewsOnAir App and through YouTube and social media. “Short wave operations have been suspended during the lockdown to ensure all of our limited and constrained resources are put to maintaining domestic services without any disruption during this crisis, which is a matter of utmost priority,” he added.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 6:12:50 AM |

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