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DD’s struggle to stay afloat: How will the White Elephant of broadcasting be revived?

Facing a perennial tough
contest from private channels,
the public broadcaster has been
given financial resuscitation
from the government time and
again. DD has been taking slow
yet steady strides towards
progress including the recent
Digital TV Russia deal and e-
auctions, but monetisation
remains a big challenge
The BJP government has made
it amply clear that it has
ambitious plans to revamp
Doordarshan, the public
broadcaster under Prasar
Bharati, to make it more
appealing to viewers. It has
also sought to make it a
profit-generating organisation
and make it financially
autonomous. While competition
from private players has caused
problems for the public
broadcaster in terms of
viewership and revenues, DD is
trying to maintain its relevance
on TV screens today.
Recent deals and e-auctions
Creating appealing content has
been one of the major concerns
for the public broadcaster. In
recent times Doordarshan has
inked deals with international
broadcasters to create content
jointly and exchanging TV
content with these
international broadcasters.
Recently it signed a
memorandum of understanding
(MoU) with Russia’s top pay-
television broadcaster Digital
TV Russia (DTR). The
collaboration was on high
quality joint production,
exchange of TV programs and
marketing and distribution of
content. In August last year DD
had an agreement with
Deutsche Welle, the German
public service broadcaster. The
agreement saw its programming
carried through 120 million
households in Europe, Northern
Africa and Central Asia for a
reported Rs. 90 lakh. The public
broadcaster in August launched
five new shows which were to
have high value production
unlike the earlier content. The
broadcaster is said to be
spending five times more than
what they used to. For
instance each program’s
expenses will go up to Rs. 8 –
8.5 lakh per episode said Deepa
Chandra, ADG, DD National in a
media report.
Prasar Bharati also had the
21st e-auction of
Doordarshan’s free-to-air
(FTA) DTH platform. This
brought in revenues of Rs. 23.2
crore from six channels added
to the DTH platform. DD looks
to target 112 channels over
the next few months that will
be carried on the DTH platform
through these e-auctions.
According to media reports, it
earned Rs. 4.1 crore from
Colors Rishtey and Rs. 3.9
crore from Star Utsav slots.
DD had also launched a mobile
app in May for DD News as it
looks to create content and
expand availability of its
content on wider platforms.
These all developments come in
efforts to create better
content on the scale of private
players and to attract
advertising revenues.
Efforts to make DD self-
sustaining organisation
The government wants to
gradually reduce the amount of
taxpayers’ money that goes
into the public broadcasting
system. According to the last
five-year broadcast plan which
ended in March 2012, MIB had
reported that it had generated
revenues of Rs. 6,000 crore
from Prasar Bharati and had
spend more than double the
amount i.e. Rs. 12,200 crore in
the same period. The public
broadcaster has been dubbed as
the white elephant for the
government. DD employs about
33,800 staff, which is the
highest in the world.
During the budget session this
year the government had
increased the allocation to DD
by Rs. 600 crore to Rs.
2,824.55 crore for 2015-16
from Rs. 2361.54 crore in
2014-15. The government had
also allocated an additional Rs.
200 crore investment in the
public broadcaster.
Problems still persist in
revenue generation
Though there has been a lot of
effort to revive the public
broadcaster by putting in
significant investment in a
hope that it generates valuable
revenue, in recent times the
public broadcaster has come
under the scanner for its
ability to generate enough
revenues and the mounting
expenditure. In a recent media
report, it was pointed out that
while the revenues had declined
by nearly 13 per cent in
2014-15, the expenditure too
had risen by 15 per cent. The
report said that the
expenditure had grown from Rs.
1,608 crore in 2012-13 to Rs.
1,850 crore in 2014-15, while
the revenues had declined to
Rs. 993 crore from Rs. 1,137
crore in the same period. It
also said that many of the
other government ministries
are reducing their ad spends on
the public broadcaster. It is
said that the Health Ministry
had withdrawn Rs. 100 crore
that it had earmarked for
publicity campaigns on Prasar
Bharati. Similarly, the
Agriculture Ministry had also
informed the MIB that it is
reducing its spends on the
public broadcaster by half from
Rs. 145 crore to Rs. 70 crore.
This was supposedly due to the
loss of confidence and trust in
entrusting the funds to the
public broadcaster as its
ratings were low. Jawhar
Sircar, CEO, Prasar Bharati had
denied this and had cited other
reasons for this decision taken
by the ministries.
However, Minister of State
(MoS) for I&B, Rajyavardhan
Rathore had admitted to the
expenditures were high for
Prasar Bharati given its public
service role and manpower, but
said that the public broadcaster
needed to conduct a self-
analysis and must come up with
various models to increase its
viewability as well as revenue
As the public broadcaster
increases its efforts to revamp
its content to make it more
appealing to viewers and
advertisers alike to generate
more revenues, the spends too
of it will increase. Hence, it
remains to be seen whether
these efforts from it will bear
fruit in terms of it being
profitable and being revenue

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