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Govt review of Doordarshan’s content scheme delays release of new shows

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-08-2017 Harveen Ahluwalia

New Delhi: The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry has decided to review state-broadcaster Doordarshan’s new content acquisition scheme, under which prime-time programming slots (on DD National) were auctioned to private production houses in December, three people familiar with the development said.

In the process, the ministry has delayed the release of new prime-time content prepared by Saaibaba Telefilms and the Ekta Kapoor-promoted Balaji Telefilms. Both production houses have been readying programming, ranging from music reality shows to youth-oriented shows and family dramas. Some were supposed to go on air in late July.

“The ministry has decided to take a step back and review the policy. The programming has been delayed, as of now. Suron Ka Eklavya (a music reality show by Saaibaba Telefilms) was supposed to start on 29 July, Saturday. We will have to wait and see how things shape up,” said one of three people cited above, asking not to be identified. The decision followed a meeting between ministry officials and representatives from Doordarshan and private production houses.

A ministry official declined to comment. An emailed query to the secretary of the I&B ministry seeking comment remained unanswered.

Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio, had put prime-time slots on auction in May 2016 in a bid to introduce fresh content on Doordarshan in an effort to revive its viewership and finances. Currently, the broadcaster purchases programmes from producers under self finance commissioning (SFC) scheme and generates advertising revenues.

After two failed auctions last year, the public broadcaster successfully completed one in December and awarded three slots each to Balaji Telefilms Ltd and Saaibaba Telefilms. “It is a blow to both the production houses. The promotions were already up and running and a good number of episodes had been produced. We can’t say as to what changes will be introduced in policy (if at all ministry goes ahead with the policy). Meanwhile, all of us are waiting,” said a second person, asking not to be identified.

“The initial plan was to launch on Saturday. But it seems that authorities are still evaluating the plan,” said an executive at one of the two production houses, who did not want to be named.

The auction was a part of Prasar Bharati’s efforts to revamp the entire Doordarshan network. The broadcaster was hoping to generate Rs100 crore in 2017-18 from the auction—Rs20 crore as the collective bidding price of the slots sold in the auction and Rs80 crore in advertising revenue (from new programming).

In 2016-17, Doordarshan recorded a net revenue of Rs827.51 crore, up from Rs755 crore in 2015-16.

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