Privatise DD now!
Does anybody remember DD3? The upmarket, sophisticated channel
that was Bhaskar Ghose's dream? The third terrestrial channel
that was going to strengthen Doordarshan's hold over the Indian
In case you've forgotten -- and most of us have -- let me refresh
DD3 was Doordarshan's answer to the satellite invasion of upper
middle class households. The advent of STAR TV took DD by surprise
and Zee TV made a serious dent in its revenues. The corporation's
management decided to fight back by turning the second channel
into a Zee clone and by creating a new channel to reach out to
the STAR Plus viewer.
The concept behind DD3 was perfect. While English speakers did
not watch Doordarshan, STAR Plus, the BBC World Service and MTV
had finally turned them into television viewers. Unless Doordarshan made
a serious attempt to wean them away, the upper middle class agenda
would always be decided by foreign satellite channels.
Doordarshan's only advantage over the satellite operators was
that it could broadcast terrestrially. That meant that you didn't
need a cable connection or a dish to receive its signals. Any
old aerial would do. This advantage gives DD1 and DD2 their enormous
The idea was to combine that reach with upmarket programming.
Dileep Padagonkar was going to do a breakfast show and Prannoy
Roy would to the news. There would be chat shows, good foreign
serials (House of Cards was originally bought by DD3) and quality
domestic entertainment. The launch date was set for the autumn
Then everything went wrong.
P V R K Prasad, information adviser to Narasimha Rao and Zee
TV fan, went running to his boss to say that the news would go
out live and that Prannoy Roy would not listen to him in the way
that DD's news editors did. Did the government wish to allow this
kind of impertinence?
To his eternal shame, Narasimha Rao agreed with him. Twenty-four
hours before the channel was due to go on the air, the prime minister
shut it down.
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