At 50, Doordarshan beams to a challenging tomorrow

Doordarshan turns 50

But has the state-owned channel managed to tune into the India of today? Has it morphed over the years to reach out with content that mirrors the changing face of Indian society and lifestyles?

The views vary. While some, like Rajiv Mehrotra, managing trustee of the Public Service Broadcasting Trust, feel it is time for Doordarshan to look to the future, others like old-time viewer Abhishek Tiwari remember with nostalgia old serials like "Buniyaad" and the quiz shows.

"Doordarshan has to occupy a middle ground between a public broadcaster and a private broadcaster with more autonomy in terms of content," said Mehrotra.
While Doordarshan as a mass medium had succeeded enormously with development support communication and reached out to marginalized sections with local content in far-flung areas of the country, it had failed in its agenda of commercial broadcasting, he said.

"It has remained a state-funded broadcasting medium and not been able to democratise itself by  ensuring participation of the civil societies and communities. Free flow of information and ideas is yet to happen here," Mehrotra, also a filmmaker, told IANS.
Former newsreader-anchor Usha Albuquerque, however, feels that Doordarshan has managed to tune into time.

"Our job as newsreaders and anchors in the 1980s was to inform viewers what is happening in the country and highlight key issues. Today, presentations have changed. Doordarshan is doing more interactive programmes like interviews and live discussions that we did not get an opportunity to do," Albuquerque said.

"Had age been on my side, I would have returned to television to interview politicians and celebrities since I was clued into the country's politics and current affairs."
In filmmaker Shyam Benegal's view, however, a public broadcaster "could not be in business like the private channels".

"But if we need to raise money, we should earn from licensing," Benegal said at a discussion last week.

According to veteran journalist, writer and media observer Nalin Mehta: "... We now have a new paradigm. The advent of the satellite dish has brought about a social engagement. You get the best of programmes on the 200-odd private channels and Doordarshan has to compete."

In his book "India on Television: How Satellite News Channels Have Changed the Way We Think and Act", Mehta says the total number of television households in the country has tripled to an estimated 112 million, making India the third largest television market after China and the US.
It's a market that traces its beginnings to Sep 15, 1959, when Doordarshan began its  telecast with a small transmitter in a makeshift studio in the capital on an experimental basis.
Over the years, it has expanded to 19 channels, which cater to 90 percent of the country's audience with a network of nearly 1,500 transmitters.

Archives records say the regular daily transmission of Doordarshan from Delhi started in 1965 as part of  All India Radio. The transmission service was extended to Mumbai and  Amritsar in 1972. Television was separated from radio in 1976.

To commemorate 50 years of telecasting, Doordarshan has commissioned "The Golden Trail" chronicling its 50-year journey, said a senior Doordarshan official. The 50-year celebrations will run throughout the year with special programmes.   
Special programmes that will no doubt tap into the nostalgia of viewers like Tiwari, 40, an electronics engineer.

"It gave us news bulletins, the first mega soaps in the 1980s like 'Hum Log' and 'Buniyaad' comedies, quiz shows, poll analysis and the 'Chitrahaar'. The anchors and newsreaders became iconic. Since the programmes were  educative in nature, one was relatively less distracted. Now the whole landscape has changed," Tiwari said with some regret.

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