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Doordarshan to start Hindi news channels in four states

New Delhi: State-run broadcaster Doordarshan will start Hindi news channels for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, states that will play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the national election due in May 2014.

This is an attempt by the public broadcaster to provide localized and region-specific content to the four Hindi heartland states, Manish Tewari, minister of information and broadcasting, told reporters in New Delhi.

The channel may provide a platform to the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to publicize its achievements, including the food security law that seeks to provide subsidized foodgrains to the poor, according to experts.

Experts are, however, sceptical whether starting news channels will translate into electoral benefits for the ruling party.

“Starting a channel by itself doesn’t give any mileage,” said Bhaskar Rao, an expert in communication strategy and media research. “It depends on what kind of content you put there and the credibility it has. In the states of Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the calibre to strategize a news channel is far more important. I’m not sure Doordarshan has that calibre.”

The idea of a Hindi news channel for these states is good but it may have come too late, said Rao. “They should have done this five years ago. There is hardly any time to gear up so that they (government) could really benefit from the channels.”

Congress party spokesperson, P.C. Chacko denied that the launch of the channel has anything to do with the party’s election preparations. “It has nothing to do with the election or the Congress party’s campaign,” Chacko said. “It is true that party has a feeling that its propaganda is yet to reach the majority of the population. More people should get the information about the welfare measures initiated by the government.”

According to an 8 July news report by Press Trust of India, DD-Madhya Pradesh and DD-Bihar have started telecasting programmes while the other two channels are likely to start functioning in a month’s time.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) questioned the timing of the launch of the news channels.

“The timing of such a launch just before the elections gives an impression that the ruling party is feeling jittery in these states and it may want to use it for its own propaganda,” Abhimanyu, national spokesperson of BJP, said. “We, however, believe that any amount of propaganda that the Congress uses would not help them resurrect in the eyes of the people.”

Doordarshan’s Hindi news channel was the most watched among all Hindi channels in the 8pm to 9pm category in April, according to data by TAM Media Research Pvt Ltd, the country’s sole TV audience measurement company.
On the advertisement cap imposed on television news channels, Tewari said the 12 minutes per hour ad limit notified by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is not a feasible model.

News broadcasters have complained that the limit has resulted in declining revenues and may soon make their businesses unviable. In March, the regulator had restricted advertisements on television channels to 12 minutes per hour, which was later changed to a phased implementation of the ad limit starting October.
“Look, 12 minutes are not viable for them, the industry is repeatedly telling us that news channels will die. So we’ll try and look at it and see if we can do something for them,” said Tewari.

While the ad volume prescribed by Trai comes as part of Standard of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) Amendment Regulations, 2013, Tewari added that rules can always be “amended”.
“We are looking at a method so that news and non-news becomes different. We have told them (news broadcasters) to give us empirical data explaining the non-feasibility of this model. They should give this same data to TRAI as well,” said Tewari.

Rahul Khullar, chairman of Trai, maintained that regulation is the law of the land. “The regulation is already in force and as far as I know it has not been struck down in any court of law,” said Khullar.
Liz Mathew and Anuja contributed to this story.

(Courtesy – Mint)

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