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Proposal for DD Metro to become satellite channel

Nithya Subramanian

NEW DELHI, June 4

PRASAR Bharati seems to be in revamp mode yet again. The national broadcaster is contemplating converting its entertainment channel - DD Metro, which is a terrestrial channel - into a satellite channel and bring the infotainment channel, DD Bharati, on the terrestrial platform.

A top Prasar Bharati official said that this proposal is being considered as the corporation feels that there is need to have a second public broadcast channel. "We are looking at the concept, but no final view has been taken," said the official.

"Currently, DD Bharati is available only through cable. The programme-mix of the channel (mainly comprising health, fitness, culture and children's shows) is such that it can become the second public broadcast channel," he added.

Some senior officials of the Prasar Bharati board are of the view that the public broadcaster should cater to all segments of society. Currently, DD National offers news and current affairs, big events and other such programmes catering to the adult population. On the other hand, DD Bharati has programmes for children and other segments like health, fitness, culture, which are not adequately covered by DD National.

However, media analysts said that Prasar Bharati could run the risk of losing revenues if DD Metro is removed from the terrestrial platform and put on satellite. "DD Metro attracts advertising despite poor programming because of its reach. If that is changed, the channel could lose advertising revenues," said a Delhi-based media planner. Then, the channel would also have to compete with other private channels like Star Plus, Zee or Sony, which today dominate the entertainment segment.

Currently, DD Metro's terrestrial reach covers over 40 per cent of the country, while DD National reaches out to over 80 per cent. DD Bharati, meanwhile, has not really taken off with the channel attracting low viewership or advertising.

Leasing to pvt players mooted

Whether DD Metro switches from the terrestrial to the satellite platform, the expert committee for developing business models for the channel under Prasar Bharati Executive Director, Mr R.C. Mishra, has suggested leasing out the channel to a few private players.

Sources in Mandi House said that the a few well-known content providers have already met senior Prasar Bharati officials. "Balaji Telefilms, Creative Eye and a couple of other entertainment software providers have been doing the rounds," they said.

However, this idea is also in the incubation stage and no final decision has been taken, emphasised officials. Meanwhile, the channel is expected to complete revamping its content by August this year.

Last year, after the break-up with HFCL-Kerry Packer-promoted Nine Gold, it had invited bids from various production houses. In the interim, it had revived some of its old classics. "As and when the old shows complete their run, they will be replaced by new ones and by August, we expect the new programmes to be in place," he said.

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