Sunday, February 13, 2005

Prasar Bharati CEO unveils ambitious global plans

By Dipankar De Sarkar, Indo-Asian News Service
London, Feb 13 (IANS) The head of India's public service broadcaster - oneof the largest anywhere - is planning to take his television and radiochannels to the vast Indian diaspora.K.S. Sarma, CEO of the Prasar Bharati Corporation, is here to publicise aglobal tender for the worldwide distribution of Doordarshan television andAll India Radio (AIR) channels."I expect a very good response," Sarma told IANS at the end of a tour ofAmerica and Britain. "I want to take our channels to wherever there is anIndian population."Sarma's ambitious plan is to deliver 13 television and 12 radio channels innational and regional languages through local carriers that will have to bidfor the contract by March 1.Sarma says the plan is aimed at meeting a long-standing demand forDoordarshan and AIR programmes by the Indian diaspora that currently onlyhas access to private Indian television and radio channels.According to the Indian government, the diaspora is over 20 million strongand found in almost every part of the world. There are a million ethnicIndians in 11 countries and at least 100,000 in 22 others.The Prasar Bharati tender comes after an abortive attempt to provide twofree Doordarshan channels to the diaspora through a private career thatSarma said proved too expensive.The tender covers 49 countries in North America, Asia (including the MiddleEast and central Asia), Asia-Pacific, Europe, and Africa.Refundable deposits for bids for the television channels range from around$40,000 (for North America) down to $5,000 for some of the smaller countriesand $2,000-$3,000 for radio channels.For Sarma, who took over as CEO three-and-a-half years ago, the bid to reachthe global Indian comes after the successful penetration of some of the moreremote and inaccessible regions within India - something he felt fellsquarely within the mandate of a modern public service broadcaster."If we are rally a public broadcaster worth our salt, I must reacheveryone," Sarma said.He said the Direct-To-Home (DTH) service, providing 33 free channels throughset tops and dishes that have to be purchased, had marked a "realrevolution" in public service broadcasting, benefiting 20 million householdsthat are in remote areas with no television signal and another 45 millionwho had no cable access."This will change the broadcasting landscape in India," Sarma added.According to Sarma, of the estimated 202 million households in India, atleast 90 million own a television set, which gives a rough minimumviewership of 450 million.
Indo-Asian News Service

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