Sumita Vaid

DD News beefs up team; Naveen Kumar appointed DG, Doordarshan

In what may seem as an exodus of some consequence, eight correspondents/presenters are slated to join DD News from Aaj Tak on January 15, 2004

The news channel genre was in the thick of big-time action last year. One channel that seemed to get on to the bus only late in the year was DD News. With a new team led by ex-Aaj Tak hand Deepak Chaurasia (as consulting editor) and a much-improved performance during the Assembly polls, Doordarshan News steadily climbed up the ratings chart towards the year end.

Now the news channel is making all efforts to take the good work forward. Naveen Kumar, 1975 batch IAS officer, has been appointed director general, Doordarshan, and he would occupy the slot vacated by SY Quraishi in August-September last year. Though the officiating head of DD News has not been designated yet, it has been announced that the official would be an IIS Cadre officer.

In what may seem as an exodus of some consequence, eight correspondents/presenters are slated to join DD News from Aaj Tak on January 15, 2004. Another senior correspondent is set to join the channel from Prannoy Roy-promoted NDTV. Some more executives from rival channels are expected to join the DD News team in the next phase. Clearly, a handsome pay package is drawing talent from rival networks, and the terrestrial channel is making no bones about it.

Besides these two critical developments, KS Sarma, CEO, Prasar Bharati, made a string of announcements late on Thursday. Topmost among them was DD's plans to tap foreign markets to cater to various Indian communities settled abroad. The pubcaster hopes to offer a bouquet of regional channels - DD India, Punjabi, Gujarati, Telugu, Bengali and Tamil - to Indians residing in the United Kingdom, North America and Canada. DD is currently in talks with Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB for distribution in the UK and Globecast for distribution in the USA (North America) and Canada.

Back home, as a substitute for terrestrial expansion, DD is planning to launch its Direct-To-Home (DTH) service on April 2, 2004. To begin with, this DTH service will be on a free-to-air (FTA) format (on the Ku band), which will show all the channels of DD channels and hopefully FTA channels of private broadcasters. Prasar Bharati has proposed to ZEE TV to carry its FTA channel on Doordarshan's to-be-launched DTH platform. However, no decision has been taken on that front.

While on the one hand Sarma talked about the ongoing negotiations with ZEE TV, on the other, the Prasar Bharati CEO made his displeasure with ZEE TV - on issue of ZEE showing DD channels on ZEE's DTH platform - public. "ZEE is showing our channels through its DTH service without the authority of Doordarshan," Sarma said. Till last year, the agreement between ZEE and DD ordained that once the subscription to the DTH service crosses the 2-lakh mark, ZEE would have to pay DD Rs 1 per subscriber for each channel viewed.

As the DTH issue remained unresolved, All India Radio (AIR) also made some announcements at the press meet on Thursday. While Brijeshwar Singh has been appointed director general of AIR, the radio channel has won the rights to cover live the 15 One Day Internationals of the VB Series played by Australia, India and Zimbabwe. AIR has paid a sum of Rs 60 lakh to acquire the rights to broadcast the series. Sarma was particularly happy about the fact that the radio station has signed on Rs 3-crore worth of advertising on the yet-to-start event.

The topic of cricket was once again tossed at the press meet, but this time in connection with DD's failed attempt at negotiating with Ten Sports to procure the rights to cover (deferred live) half an hour or an hour of the most looked forward Friendship Cup series matches between India and Pakistan.

Nonetheless, Sarma signed off on a note of optimism saying that Prasar Bharati is in talks with the Pakistan Cricket Board on this matter. After all, an ODI between India and Pakistan match can easily notch up Rs 5 crore worth of advertising for the broadcaster. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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