The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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DD turns to Murdoch

New Delhi, Nov. 16: Doordarshan wants to get on to the Murdoch bandwagon in the UK even as the government has tried to distance itself at home from the media mogul.

Frustrated that its propaganda gets little mileage overseas, the government has asked Doordarshan to get on to James Murdoch’s BSkyB platform in the UK.

The Prasar Bharati chief executive officer, K.S. Sarma, and additional secretary Vijay Singh, the Union information and broadcasting ministry’s nominee on the public broadcaster’s board, will be visiting London shortly to get Doordarshan a London address. Getting a British address is mandatory for television channels that are distributed in the UK. Doordarshan will target an Asian audience running into millions.

The Prasar Bharati board at its last meeting authorised Doordarshan’s overseas venture. The decision was taken after it was concluded that Prasar Bharati’s external services — mainly All India Radio’s foreign language programmes — were flops.

For example, the ministry of external affairs recently forwarded a letter to the I&B ministry from a Persian scholar in Iran who had listened to AIR’s Persian language programme. The scholar pointed out that the programme was of poor quality, the content bad and the pronunciation and diction of the broadcaster had him guessing if it was indeed Persian.

The MEA has also reported that its feedback from embassies overseas on AIR’s short-wave foreign language services is bad. Not only is the content found wanting, the quality of transmission is also poor.

In course of time, Prasar Bharati may wind up or constrict the foreign language services of All India Radio. The external services cost Prasar Bharati about Rs 50 crore. The resulting savings would be utilised by the broadcaster to pay BSkyB — should it manage to enter into an agreement — and be distributed among Asian homes in the UK.

Initial information available with Prasar Bharati suggests that it would have to pay DTH platform BSkyB Rs 5-7 crore a year to be distributed as a free-to-air channel. Prasar Bharati has earmarked three channels for distribution — Doordarshan National (the primary channel), DD India and DD News.

Doordarshan’s decision would take it into competition with STAR and Zee for overseas markets, too. STAR and Zee are beamed for a primarily Asian audience in the UK.

BSkyB is the leading satellite television broadcaster in the UK with a reach of about 7 million connections and a market share of about 50 per cent. Last week, James Murdoch resigned from father Rupert Murdoch’s holding company, NewsCorp, to take over as chief executive of BSkyB. NewsCorp has a 35 per cent stake in BSkyB. James is also head of STAR TV, NewsCorp’s primary platform in Asia.

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