The concrete “shape and cost” of the channel would be determined after the strategy exercise is complete, according to Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati (Image: PTI)
National public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has floated a tender for a consultant plan to launch an international news channel, in what reports say would be similar to the BBC World.
The move comes at a time when the government is facing criticism from international media for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, a chaotic vaccination drive and fears around freedom of speech. However, Prasar Bharati said the tender is “not a knee-jerk reaction” and has “existed for a long time”, the Indian Express reported.
“Prasar Bharati board granted its approval for the project in March,” CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati told the newspaper, as he pointed to his tweets of March 25 that thanked the board for approving “several key decisions”.
“In view of the strategic objective to build a global presence for Doordarshan and to establish an international voice for India, it is envisaged to establish DD International. The EoI is being issued for a DPR from reputed global consultants with experience in advising international broadcasters or media houses on projects of this nature,” the tender says.
DD, as Doordarshan is known, is Prasar Bharati’s flagship news channel broadcast across the country.
The expression of interest (EoI) was floated on May 13 and requires consultancy services to:
– Submit a detailed project report (DPR) for the “establishment of DD International” with objective to “project India’s point of view globally on contemporary issues of significance” and to “tell the India story to global audience”, it added.
– International bureaus are part of the plan and consultants will thus also have to identify locations and draw up a roadmap “prioritising geographic streams” and providing “24×7 world service streams”, the report added.
– Another aspect will be a strategy to amplify DD India content via the global news service.
Addressing concern over key board roles (chairman, member finance and member personnel) being vacant, Vempati said this would have no impact as “tenders of this nature are operational matters”.
The concrete “shape and cost” of the channel Vempati said would be determined after the strategy exercise is complete. “Once we have the input, then we will tell the government about funding and other details,” he added.
He called the move “long overdue” and pointed to similar ventures such as “first iteration of the BBC or Al Jazeera” which can later evolve because “international interest in India is cultural”.
An official, however, told the newspaper that moves towards this project have been on-and-off for “nearly 10 years” and happen “every time there is a change in leadership at Prasar Bharati”. He said DD’s English language news channel was first also intended to go international but failed due to “duplication of content from DD News (Hindi language).