Doordarshan Television Network is India’s public service television broadcaster. Alongside All India Radio, it is one of two arms of Prasar Bharati, an autonomous public broadcasting agency established under the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act 1990 (passed in 1990 but enacted in 1997). Doordarshan and All India Radio had previously been located in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Under Prasar Bharati, board members continue to be appointed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (Rodrigues 2013a, 189). Today Doordarshan operates a three-tier programme service (national, regional, and local), including the two all India channels “DD National” (or DD-1) and “DD News”, and the international channel “DD India”. While subject to commercial considerations such as advertising revenue and sponsored programs, Doordarshan continues to frame itself as a traditional public service:
“Being a Public Service Broadcaster the [DD National] channel continues to make significant contribution to accelerate socio-economic changes, promote national integration, inculcate a sense of unity and fraternity and stimulate scientific temperament among the people. It contributes to disseminate knowledge/education and information for public awareness about means of population control, family welfare, preservation of environment, ecological balance and measures for women and children welfare. It telecast [sic] programmes for children, physically handicapped and underprivileged and helps preservation of artistic and cultural heritage of the country and promotes sports.” (website)
Throughout the 1960s to the 1990s, India’s television policy involved a protectionist stance against private sector entry, the expansion of a terrestrial broadcast network, state intervention in programming, and limited development of programming given the lack of private competition (Rodrigues 2013b, 258). Usha Rodrigues describes the changing situations of Doordarshan from its inception,
“from serving as a tool for ‘development communication’, to being a mouth-piece of the government of the day; from being a monopoly to being a government-owned network in a predominantly commercially driven multi-channel market; and from being a government propaganda tool to a network striving to attain autonomy from its [state] funding source” (2013a, 181).
Doordarshan had its initial transmission on 15 September 1959, its signal stretching 40 kilometres in Delhi. Programs were broadcast twice weekly for one hour each day. A daily transmission began in 1965. More so than her father, Indira Gandhi was interested in the potential of television, beginning broadcasts in Bombay and Amritsar in 1972 (Athique 2012, 39). Nonetheless, until 1975 only seven Indian cities received a television broadcast from Doordarshan. The still-running Krishi Darshan, aimed at informing rural teleclub audiences in about 80 villages about agricultural matters, was the first Indian television program on Doordarshan, while the first serial, Ladoosingh Taxiwala, began in 1976. Under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Doordarshan was separated from All India Radio in 1976.
In 1980, the Government of India’s Report of the Working Group on National Film Policy recognised India’s failure to effectively develop television:
“We would like to emphasise that TV offers a very promising outlet for the exhibition of good films which has not been adequately utilised in India. Even in countries like West Germany and U.K. where TV has grown as a separate medium, it does provide substantial outlet for the exhibition of films. Our study shows that in India even award winning films find it difficult to obtain regular exhibition on television. It should be the clear responsibility of the Doordarshan to provide a viable non-theatrical outlet for low budget good quality films. As far as award winning films are concerned, it should be obligatory on the Doordarshan to telecast these films on the all India circuit. Films with mature themes in which children will not be interested should be screened after 10 p.m.” (GoI 1980, 29)
This Report, commissioned under the former Janata Party government, was critical of the misuse of broadcasting media by the government, especially during Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party “Emergency” (1975-77). In 1974, Delhi’s television station was ordered to screen the popular film Bobby to reduce crowds expected to attend an opposition rally (Jeffrey 2006, 216). National television broadcasts began in 1982, alongside the introduction of colour broadcasts and followed by Asiad ’82, the 9th Asian Games hosted by Delhi. Television purchases and Doordarshan’s consumption increased in the 1980s following expanded broadcast networks and before the introduction of satellite television. The Prasar Bharati Act 1990 and the separation of Doordarshan from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting recognised that public telecasts had regularly operated as the mouthpiece of the state. – Liam Grealy
– Athique, A. (2012). Indian media: Global approaches. Cambridge: Polity Press.
– India, G. o. (1980). Report of the Working Group on National Film Policy. New Delhi: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
– Jeffrey, R. (2006). The Mahatma didn’t like the movies and why it matters: Indian broadcasting policy, 1920s-1990s. Global Media and Communication, 2(2), 204-224.
– Rodrigues, U. M. (2013a). Public service broadcasting in India: Doordarshan’s legacy. In M. Ranganathan & U. M. Rodrigues (Eds.), Indian media in a globalised world (pp. 181-205). London: Sage.
– Rodrigues, U. M. (2013b). Television policy in India: An unfulfilled agenda. In M. Ranganathan & U. M. Rodrigues (Eds.), Indian media in a globalised world (pp. 246-267). London: Sage.
– Sinha, N. (1998). Doordarshan, Public service broadcasting and the impact of globalization: A short history. In M. Price & S. Verhulst (Eds.), Broadcasting reform in India: Media law from a global perspective (pp. 22-40). Delhi: Oxford University Press.