Sunday 27 January 2013

Are All India Radio and Doordarshan dead?

 In this day and age, no one seems to watch Doordashan or hear All India Radio.  Once upon a time we used to cycle all the way to Doordarshan's Mumbai Headquarters at Worli, just to know which Film will be played on Sunday.  This is a thing of past.  What ails both the public broadcasters?
As I have noted above, not so long ago that is somewhere in 1990 me and my friends used to cycle all the way from Byculla to Worli, just to know the name of Hindi Feature Film, which would be aired on coming sunday.   Those were romantic times with programs like Chayya Geet,  Rangoli, Surabhi, The World This Week and serials like Karamchand, Humlog, Khandaan etc.  The film makers had to be really priviledged to be seen on Doordarshan.  

Now with the rise of cable television and private broadcasters, the Doordarshan programs seemed to have lost their charm.  The last program I remember watching on Doordarshan was 'Satyamev Jayate'  which incidentally was also available on Star Plus but with heavy ad dosage, so I was comfortable watching it on Doordarshan.

All India Radio was a hot favourite of my father.  Every morning I used to wake up listening to the popular signature tune of All India Radio announcing the arrival of the day.  I have managed to get a video of the signature tune from You tube, listen in

Then there were programs on radio like Bela ke Phool etc. which were quite popular.  On the day of cricket matches, it used to be a honour listening to the voice of Sushil Kumar Doshi comment about the match in Hindi and  Suresh Saraiya in English.  There used to be this one big device called radio (the same one on which the track of Burfi! is based) and people would collectively  groan and rejoice whenever India's wicket fell or Gavaskar scored a boundary.  Those were the days!

Now except of Vividh Bharati Service, which I learn is quite popular in interior India and parts of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, all other programs really suck, even though people today still vouch for the news relayed on All India Radio.

What ails our Nation's premier broadcaster.    In the 1999-2000 period when the cable TV was booming, DD did not join the bandwagon, rather than producing entertainment content, they were busy producing dull and boring interviews, documentaries and dramas which are anyways never watched by anybody.  Someone in the top hierarchy tried to change things by launching a Metro channel, which in fact was quite a rage in that era with programs like Superhit Muqabla etc.  However as is always the case the Metro Channel died a slow death.  

The excuse given by the Broadcaster was and still is, that it being public broadcaster, it has to cater to all classes of society from poor to rich and from farmer to a CEO.  I agree with the argument, but my question is who watches the TV or the Radio.  I don't think the rich and famous have time to watch television or hear radio, as long as they are not featured in it.  It is watched and heard mostly by the people from middle class to lower middle class.  So why can't Doordarshan address these class of audience with good programming and marketing. 

It has lost a golden chance due to red tape and bureaucracy to jump on DTH bandwagon with no pay to air service channel opting for it.   This was a golden opportunity for Doordarshan  to rehash its business model and launch a full fledged DTH, which would have earned revenue for it and given viewers some value for money, given its reach across India.  Unfortunately it was not to be.

Now a days, if you watch cable TV, almost all serials are airing soaps with heavily bejewelled Bahu (Daughter in Law), always staying young Saas (Mother in Law).  Though the story line changes sometimes from a Gujarati family to Rajastani to Bengali to Maharashtrian to Muslim Family.  But the premise is always the same.  I secretly wonder how the Ma in law manages to stay young despite having seen through marriage of her son to the marriage of her grandson.  L'oreal and Maybelline may be interested in knowing the secret of her Jawani (youthfulness) despite being aging so much in the serial. 

One such serial "Balika Vadhu" started in 2008 with a premise of child marriage dogging the Indian Society,  however as of now there is no Balika nor any Vadhu in the serial.  The serial has totally leap frogged from being a socially relevant serial to being a serial about infidelity, chaunism and sadism.

The newest phenomenon after Ekta Kapoors style of serials is leap forward method which is used by majority of serials.

Then there is the second part of prime time television which is consumed by so called Reality Shows.  It may be about some failed and unsuccessful personality getting locked in an insane asylum and shouting and deriding each other in the name of Big Bosss with somebody to continuously arouse passion and jealousy and idiotic behaviour like Dolly Bindra last year or Imaad Hussain this year.

There is this program called KBC in which some MBA/Super MBA/not so super MBA who can even answer silly stupid questions like
1.  Seeds of which of these flowers are used to produce a edible oil ?
A. Genda B. Guldaudi C. Arhul D.Surajmukhi
Ans: D.Surajmukhi

2. In which sport has Jwala Gutta been a 13-time National Champion?
A) Badminton B) Chess C) Squash D) Table Tennis
Ans is A) Badminton

and what not? and yet the contestant  requires the help line.  I have a few questions for Amitabh
1.  How come you have all the cheques ready for all the contestants?  Thats a lot of cheques going waste!
2.  How come you have video clips of all the contestants who win fastest fingers first?  Please don't tell me you have video clips of all the contestants who may have registered for KBC, they must number about a million.
3.  How come you guest of the day sit somewhere else, yet you can connect if whenever a contestant wants expert advice?  And he or she appears to sitting in a different environment (set) every time?  Given the state of our 3G service providers I can vouch for the fact the you have to call at least 5 times before getting a video call through.

In the current scenario, I haven't found any program worth watching except Crime Patrol on Sony Television, that too because of superb compering by Anup Soni.

So now is the right time for Doordarshan to enter the scene with good programming based on viewers demand.  The new CEO of Prasar Bharati Jawahar Sircar sure means business, but he has to cut throught the red tapism that exists in Mandi House as well as Akashwani Bhavan so that good programs get through and at the same time improve the quality of the feed of Doordarshan. 

I still don't understand why the head honchos of Prasar Bharati are still clinging on to the Medium Wave system, when FM is the technology of today.  If you try to tune into medium wave station of All India Radio, you are bound to hear a good amount of static, which is absolutely not required in this day and age when we have quality options available.  Why isn't Vividh Bharati available on FM is a question which only some top brass in New Delhi can answer.   Given the popularity of both Gold and Rainbow in Mumbai, it is high time VBS is launched on a FM platform immediately.

Hope Prasar Bharati rises to the new challenges and gives us quality programming which we were used to in the early 90's.  I may live to see it rise from the ashes just like the Phoenix did and again rule the Indian television scene like it once did.

Please post your comments/suggestions on above article.

Vijay Prabhu

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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Liked your post.

  3. Vijay prabhu...do you still think the same after mann ki baat ...

    1. No :) Mr.Modi has been a breath of fresh air to AIR :)


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