Sumita Vaid

DD's 24-hr news channel debuts on November 3; AIR Radio news channel on April 2, 2004

With the assembly polls round the corner, the news channel genre is turning into a hotbed of competition

With the assembly polls round the corner, the news channel genre is turning into a hotbed of competition.

At a press meet in the capital yesterday two news channels were unveiled - first, the 24-hour All India Radio news channel, which goes live on April 2, 2004, and second, the 24-hour DD News channel, which goes on air on November 3, 2003. The terrestrial channel hopes to reach 43 per cent of the population and all of the 40-million-plus cable households through INSAT 2E and PAS-10 satellites. The channel management assured that the channel is going to be quite ‘efficient'.

The investments speak for the expectations from the channel. In addition to the Rs 20-crore that has gone into setting up the channel this financial year, another Rs 54 crore has been allocated for each of the two successive financial years. While the channel hopes to recover Rs 27 crore in 2004-2005, it has set a target of recovering another Rs 54 crore by 2006. The focus will be on in-house productions as against commissioned ones, which had spelled heavy losses for Prasar Bharti earlier.

Besides the DD News headquarters in New Delhi, the channel will have 23 regional news units with feed facility across the country, with the capability to produce news bulletins in 17 languages. Setting up of the production panel is underway along with the hiring of news reporters and anchors. Among the prominent recruits are presenters Nalini Singh, ex-Aaj Tak correspondent Deepak Chaurasia and ex-STAR News anchor Rajat Sharma.

In addition to English and Hindi bulletins, the 24-hour news channel will air one business bulletin and two language bulletins - in Sanskrit and in Urdu. The channel will have four World/Asia News bulletins - two in Hindi and two in English - besides two English bulletins dubbed Asian News Review. The current affairs programme line-up includes Cross Country, Issues of the Day, Samachar Rajyon Sein, Metro News and Press Review.

While Cross Country is a one-hour programme in Hindi at 9:30 pm on weekdays dealing with five to six major issues of the day from the entire country with live inputs from regional news, Samachar Rajyon Sein is a bilingual programme that takes up one major topic of national or international interest. Samachar Rajyon Sein would initially concentrate on the states in the election mode - Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Metro News would be in English and will feature news from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. Press Review is a bilingual, in-house programme that will deal with the major headlines and interesting stories in various newspapers published across the country.

Among other programmes on weekdays are the Breakfast Show, Rozana, Bollywood On Line, Gaon Har Roz and Crime Show. Weekend programming has not been ignored either. The line-up includes Current Affairs Quiz Time on Sunday, Roving Reporter on Saturday, Book Review on Sunday, Career Baatien on Sunday and Khabrien Bollywood Ki on Saturday and Sunday.

On the distribution front, the channel feels it already has an edge over the C&S channels. "For example, in Delhi only 55 per cent of the population has access to C&S, the rest have no access at all," points out KS Sarma, CEO, Prasar Bharti. "For that matter, in Uttar Pradesh, less than 40 per cent have access to C&S. We are free to air and we are terrestrial; this will work to our advantage and help augment our distribution," says Sarma. "While that may push distribution of the channel to an extent, Doordarshan is going to take full advantage of the ‘must carry' clause the cable operators have to observe."

While Sarma did not give out details on the sponsored programmes, he did mention that only 10-15 per cent of the total airtime is available for sponsors/advertisers. "So far, the response has been quite good. I already have 30 requests for sponsored programmes. This time we have made the rate card very competitive and the introductory rates are quite attractive," Sarma adds.

Sarma hopes that with its current strength of correspondents, which is a total of 500, the channel's dependence on wire news - UNI and PTI - would lessen. "That would save me Rs 11 crore, which we spend every year in sourcing news from them," says Sarma. The news on DD1 would be sliced into one-hour bulletins.

Few details were shared with the press with regard to the 24-hour AIR news channel at the conference yesterday. What is known is that the decision to launch the channel was the outcome of a special task force headed by Amit Mitra of FICCI suggesting the I&B Ministry to allow the broadcast of news on FM radio (private operators included). In fact, 24-hour news is available on AIR in five cities - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Patna. To listen to the news, one would have to dial 1258 for news in Hindi or 1259 for news in English.

Interestingly, Prasar Bharti is also planning a to launch a magazine in English and in Hindi, perhaps on the lines of Graffiti. However, it is undecided on the distribution strategy. Things would be clearer in the coming months.

© 2003 agencyfaqs!

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