Now, let’s be fair here: Doordarshan News is a news channel. It does give you news, typically after you have seen, heard or read it elsewhere, but often more factual and correct. Seldom does DD News have news breaks, not because it is always the last to know what is going on but because it must confirm the accuracy of the information — something private news channels/ portals don’t necessarily bother with — and then decide how best to convey it so it doesn’t annoy those VIPs (very important politicians) who are in a position to deliver a sharp, swift kick where it hurts most.
DD News bulletins have more news from around the country, the world and the government (!) than private news channels — the latter broadcast bullet news capsules so small you could swallow them like a pill. Yet, most PLU (people like us) don’t watch DD News. Or so an assessment by the ministry of information and broadcasting revealed, as reported by The Indian Express. Seems the I&B ministry is mighty hot and bothered by the poor viewership and poorer revenues of the public broadcaster. While the chief executive officer of Prasar Bharati argues that viewership figures by ratings organisations do not include rural households, the problem is that advertising revenue still depends largely on urban viewership. So do media perceptions.
There’s a long list of reasons why DD News is not popular, but let’s stick to what we see and hear. And what we see and hear is not pretty. Take the Tuesday night 8 pm-9.30 pm slot. This is primetime for news channels: Aaj Tak was with “gone” girl Geeta in Karachi who wants to find her way home to India; NDTV 24×7 went from the Nagaland accord to the 26/11 revelations of a Pakistani intelligence officer, Tariq Khosa. Times Now crowed over Khosa’s admission that Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani and that the terrorist attack had been planned in Pakistan. There was also outrage over the impasse in and out of Parliament on other channels, including India Today, CNN-IBN and News X.
At 9 pm, DD News invited one solitary political analyst — sorry, his name flashed past in a nano second. The good thing is the studio was not cluttered with the same experts; the bad thing is we didn’t know who he is or where he works. The topic? No work, no pay for suspended/ agitating MPs. The anchor asked: Do you think we should implement the concept of no work, no pay prevalent in some other countries? Analyst replied: No… I don’t think this is a good idea…
He informed us that MPs are elected to work for the welfare of the people (uh-uh), to pass bills, etc. That brought the anchor to the contentious land acquisition bill. The expert said the government was “softening” on the bill; everyone knows it has been forced to retreat by opposition within and outside the NDA. He added that it was a “good” bill and the opposition “should see sense”.
Now, why would anyone watch or listen to this exchange, instead of the “burning questions” under discussion elsewhere? DD News is just plain boring. It’s rather like a boiled egg: Hard on the outside when dealing with the opposition (read the Congress), soft inside on the government (currently the BJP). It speaks in its master’s voice but must pretend it has a voice of its own.
DD National, the infotainment channel, lacks energy and innovation. Watch the Epic channel, which has shows such as Stories by Rabindranath Tagore, and recall the golden years in the mid-1980s when such stories were told on Doordarshan. Ah, that deserves a Javed Jaffrey flashback…