Doordarshan is set to discard its dowdy and boring image as a public service broadcaster, make its regional channels more attractive and entertaining, expand its reach to remote areas of the country and employ more local talent, all aided by a new study on viewership patterns.
The study, being conducted in a few cities by private group TAM Media Research, will be used by Doordarshan and even private channels to take a re-look at their plans, said Information and Broadcasting Secretary Bimal Julka.
"TAM is increasing the size of its Peoplemeter. The data will be useful for us to know which channels are being viewed. This will help Doordarshan and other channels to re-study their plans," Julka told IANS in an interview.
A Peoplemeter is an audience measurement tool that calculates the viewing habits of TV and cable audience. He said the Peoplemeter study is an "independent exercise" with no involvement of the government.
Elaborating about the Peoplemeter, the top ministry official said TAM installs "meters" in people's homes to gauge what channels are being viewed, at what time and by whom. The study would give the government real-time data on channels preferred by people. Based on the study, the television rating points (TRPs) would be generated, he said.
"The meter will monitor which channel you are watching, how many times you surf that channel. They will measure each and every member of the household. It is an objective and scientific method," he added.
The TV remote would have buttons specifically configured for each member of a household. Each time a member of the family picks up the TV remote, he or she will have to click on the specific button; otherwise the TV set will not switch on.
The installation of Peoplemeter began about two months ago in some households in Chennai, Hyderabad and Madhya Pradesh, he said.
Julka said the government did not want to "come into the picture, lest anyone accuse us that we are biased". TAM is a joint venture between AC Nielson Research Services and Kantar Market Research.
Prasar Bharti, the public service broadcasting authority that runs Doordarshan and All India Radio, is studying the content of each programme to improve its quality, to make Doordarshan programmes more attractive, especially in border states.
"We (information and broadcasting ministry) keep telling them to make programmes more attractive. It is a continuous exercise," Julka said.
The ministry is trying to make the Urdu and Kashir (Kashmir) channels more entertaining. It is also focussing on programmes in Arunachal Pradesh, a crucial border state in the northeast that has China as its neighbour, he added.
Julka said he recently held a meeting with Arunachal Pradesh officials to improve the content of programmes.
"Doordarshan is beamed there only for three and a half hours due to paucity of staff. There are 31 dialects spoken in that area. We feel each dialect has to be reflected in our programmes," he said.
"So there is a lot of challenges for Doordarshan - to augment equipment, staff and infrastructure; only then will viewership improve."
The government also plans to install more high-power transmitters in the border areas. "We have told Doordarshan and All India Radio to install more high-power transmitters so that the reach increases," said Julka.
The ministry has asked for local youth to be employed. "They can be hired on contractual basis. This will help provide employment and also generate content that people like."
Of around 750 TV channels in India, Doordarshan has 21, apart from Lok Sabha TV and Rajya Sabha TV and two channels run by the University Grants Commission.