Arun Jaitley wants to bring back the glory days of Doordarshan

I&B minister Arun Jaitley seeks creative support of television producers to bring back the good old days of Doordarshan while promising to iron out the bureaucratic creases

Thirty years ago, Doordarshan (DD) laid the foundation of Indian television entertainment and ruled air waves with memorable serials like Hum Log, Buniyaad, Fauji and the epics Ramayana and Mahabharat. With the advent of satellite television in the late 90s, which spawned 100 channels and more, and soaps in Hindi and other languages, DD was relegated to the background. But with the Narendra Modi government’s increasing emphasis on state-run media, a revamp seems to be in order for the public broadcaster.

In pictures: Shows from Indian television's golden era

Alok Nath and Kiran Juneja-Sippy in Buniyaad, one of the first modern Indian family shows that ran from 1984 to 1986 on Doordarshan

On November 12, newly-appointed minister for information and broadcasting, Arun Jaitley met some top notch TV producers, seeking their support for creating content for Doordarshan. About a dozen production houses were earmarked by his ministry and called for the meeting. Some of the big names that participated in the meet included JD Majithia, Kalyan Guha, Sanjoy Wadhwa, Abhimanyu Singh, Nikhil Alva and BP Singh.

Doordarshan ruled the air waves back in the 80s and early 90s with several popular programmes that kept the audience glued to their TV sets. Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan started his acting career with Fauji (above) which was telecast on DD

A source says, “Jaitley chaired the meeting and wanted to know why all the big producers have stayed away from Doordarshan. Most of them work for general entertainment channels (GECs) and they put forth their reasons. He also spoke about intellectual property rights (IPR) sharing by the producers who work with DD besides touching upon the amendment of the Indian Copyright Act and quality programming which would focus on family content and give out a social message.”

The minister is also believed to have said that his ministry would work on improving the technology in reaching out to the audience at a lesser cost.

Other hugely popular serials included Hum Log, Buniyaad, and epics like Ramayana (above) and Mahabharat (bottom). Doordarshan’s reign ended when satellite television stormed our drawing rooms

Majithia, who attended the meeting, says, “It is encouraging to note that the ministry wants to bring back the glorious days of Doordarshan and has asked for our participation in  the process.”

Talking about the reasons for keeping away from creating programmes for DD, the producer says: “Budget is a big issue. There is also an ambiguity over the date of submission of pilot episodes for the clearance of a show for Doordarshan. But, the minister has promised to increase the budget and bring in more transparency. Further, in case of an extension of a serial, DD used to sanction 13 weeks which is now planned to be increased to 26 weeks.”

Producer Manish Goswami expressed dissatisfaction over the present system of DD. “As per its new policy, it has started working on the Revenue Sharing Model (RSM) whereby the producer gives DD a fixed opportunity cost and bears the production cost of the programme. In return, he gets 240 to 300 seconds for free sale of advertisements to market his programme, that too after consultation with DD. The IPR is also the property of DD so it’s a win-win situation for the channel; there’s no benefit to the producer,” he explains.

Goswami adds that RSM was difficult to work around and must be amended. “The best way to work is to commission shows with a better budget if they want to improve the quality of shows,” he suggests.

Kalyan Guha, who produces Uttaran, shares his reasons for those of his ilk not being active on DD. “They have now started new schemes for commissioned programming and it is being displayed on the website. The ministry’s proposal to restore the lost glory of Doordarshan is definitely a good sign for us as we will get another platform to work on. Of course, for DD the parameters are different from those of GECs as it has to be more about content enrichment and include a social message. We will be more than happy to work with DD,” he says.

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