Back to the future with DD

No more ladies in elegant saris and mundane studio backgrounds. Is Doordarshan's revamp worth a dekko?

WrittenBy:Aastha Manocha
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Rukaawat ke liye khed hai…

Remember this line? There was a time when TV news could go blank on air and we would patiently wait for it to come back.

That was the time when there was only one Indian news broadcaster – Doordarshan, the public broadcaster. With the coming of private news channels, DD’s declining standards and it becoming virtually a government mouthpiece, DD is thought of fondly only in memories.

However, that is now set to change (http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/22/state-run-doordarshan-plans-an-overhaul/?smid=tw-share), or so DD claims. It has new form and content and has hired experienced professionals who’ve worked with reputed names in the business.

Some unpleasant old memories remain. DD’s YouTube channels still leave much to be desired, and so does the flawed official website. Its ‘Message from CEO Prasar Bharti’ led us to a blank page when we clicked on it. The You Tube channel for DD News – called DDNewsofficial – features very few videos.

However, there is still hope. According to the article in NYT, the main focus of the change is the prime-time news programme, News Night.

On Friday, February 22, 2013, the 9 pm news was debating the Hyderabad bomb blast – much like every other channel. The one thing which DD of yore could never be blamed of, is not believing in equal opportunity. Whether it be Geetanjali Iyer or Salma Sultana or Kaveri Mukherji, DD was known for its elegant and erudite women news readers.

Not breaking from tradition, its prime time news is still presented by a female anchor. But this time around, keeping with modern times, she was in a smart pant suit. And had a panel with representatives from the BJP, Congress and security agencies.  Since this is still DD, their You Tube channel of course does not carry a video of it.

However, it was a pleasant change to see DD asking pertinent and objective questions. We’ve got to admit, the lack of shouting was a welcome change from what we are subjected to on other news channels. The panellists still got aggressive but often the anchor simply deflected the conversation to another panellist with a “what do you think?”. Nipping the angst and animosity in the bud.

Congress representative Pankaj Sharma, it seemed, was still having trouble with the state broadcaster not appearing to kow-tow the official stance. At one point in the programme, he began angrily questioning the anchor herself. “What are you trying to say, that the government is not doing its job?” We would have loved to see him try that on Times Now.

Although the research was commendable, the debate had some noticeable technical flaws too. At one point when a panellist was talking, the camera was still focussed on the anchor. A tighter frame for its on-ground reporter would have looked better too.

So while it remains to be seen if DD can indeed pull off a BBC (which is always the bar when someone mentions a successful, independent state-run broadcaster), we leave you with a (slightly bad quality) video of public service journalism actually being practiced on DD, ages ago.

And yes, that’s Vinod Dua.

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