PRASAR BHARATI-THE BIG CON GAME DOORDARSHAN LOOTING GULLIBLE PRODUCERS
By Anil Nagrath
Prasar Bharati was formed as an independent body to run and manage the hitherto government controlled public broadcaster, Doordarshan which even today, has the highest reach to the consumers as it reaches the remotest corner of the country. The reach of Doordarshan is
maximum in the rural and semi-urban areas where cable and Dish TV have yet to make any inroads and if available, are available only for those who can afford them.
Doordarshan is available in the terrestrial mode as well as on its own Dish, which is made available to consumers and anybody having this kind of reach, would have definitely paid attention to the content, which unfortunately seems to be the least worry of DD or Prasar Bharati, as all the programmes on various multiple channels of DD, are so poor and atrocious that they are viewed only by those for whom nothing else is available.
The reason for the poor content is simple, which is that the entire process of selecting the content is totally corrupt and inefficient resulting in a stage where the producer making content for Doordarshan, is invariably left high and dry while the politicians and officials of Doordarshan, make maximum moolah out of the producers without doing anything for them. There is a clique of Delhi based producers, who can only produce substandard content and all the contracts are going to these producers because they keep the system at DD and Prasar Bharati well greased, due to which genuine producers who are capable of making outstanding content are totally sidelined. If any of them, tries to get in even after bribing, he is put to such torture that he ends up with heavy financial losses with no scope of recovering them.
A number of instances have been brought to my notice which show the utter carelessness, callousness and apathy with which producers are treated by DD and Prasar Bharati. From time to time they keep inviting proposals from producers for producing programmes on DD National, DD Urdu, DD Kisan, DD Kashir and various other channels that they claim to run including channels being run from various state capitals. The main requirement from the producers is that they first submit non-refundable deposit of Rs 25,000 and scripts of at least four episodes and synopsis of 26 episodes for consideration- an exercise which requires substantial investment as writing is not something which can be done by everybody.
I am aware of number of cases where reputed film makers who have made number of commercially hit films have submitted their applications to DD National, in response to their advertisements, along with Doordarshan fee of Rs. 25,000/- and detailed scripts of four episodes and synopsis of 26 episodes for telecast under Revenue Sharing Scheme. For this, DD issued letters informing that Doordarshan has found the concept worth telecast on its premier channel DD National under the Revenue Sharing Mode and advised the producers to send the first episode at the earliest for time slotting. Thereafter the serials were approved for prime time band under Revenue Sharing Mode and were scheduled for telecast on a specific date and time twice a week and number of producers were advised to prepare and submit promos as well as finished mixed episodes in DVC Pro 50 tapes along with an unmixed copy and a DVD well in advance.
As the time specified was very short, the producers arranged everything including the finance and shot the pilot episodes as desired and ordered by DD at a very heavy cost and submitted the same to DD. Thereafter, producers were advised to deposit the material in the Marketing Division, DDK, Mumbai which was also done and both Prasar Bharati Delhi and DDK Mumbai found their material to be perfect.
While the producers who had borrowed heavily to create the content, were waiting for telecast to begin from the specified date as per written commitment of DoorDarshan, all of a sudden they received a letter asking them to put aside all production work on hold. At a time when the producers were very hopeful of not only recovering their investment but also getting to do regular work with Prasar Bharati on the Revenue Sharing Mode, they were suddenly and rudely informed that the guidelines under Revenue Sharing Mode had been modified and could be checked on the website. If they agree with the terms and conditions, they were told to confirm immediately in reply to which the producers replied that after studying the revised guidelines, they found that there are possibilities of their suffering losses and therefore they requested Doordarshan to kindly treat their serials under the self finance commissioning scheme.
In reply to their request, Door Darshan informed that their proposal cannot be transferred to self finance scheme and if they were interested in self finance scheme, they should apply when it opens which was most unfair and undesirable. The producers then appealed to DD that their applications should be treated as valid when self finance scheme opened again and they should not be made to pay deposit and deposit material, as they had already done so in the past and it was also approved by DD. However, as is regular with DD they received no reply whatsoever to their desperate plea and they applied once again under the SFC scheme (prime time) when announced and completed all formalities including once again paying the non refundable processing charges of Rs 25,000. They also submitted digi pro and full documentation required for fresh application for same serial as advised by Doordarshan itself. The producers were thereafter invited by Doordarshan for a meeting for the evaluation committee for SFC in New Delhi where they were advised to be present with the writer-director for presentation of their project before the evaluation committee. Thereafter, the producers were relieved and pleased to receive a letter from Doordarshan informing that their proposal had been approved by the committee for the prime time slot which report of the evaluation committee was also published on the official website of Doordarshan. Immediately the producers accepted the proposal but unfortunately for reasons unknown to them, despite numerous visits to Delhi, number of phone calls and various letters, the time slot was never allotted despite their repeated pleas.
Instead of receiving time slots, the producers were suddenly sent an email informing that with reference to the serials under SFC, Doordarshan had proposed to convene a meeting of the SFC proposals with Prasar Bharati team. In the said meeting at DDK, Mumbai, all producers of SFC slot were present and were informed that Doordarshan is no longer interested in SFC slot and is only interested in sponsorship slot. All the producers present vehemently denied this proposal of Doordarshan as it was totally contrary to all the previous terms and conditions under which all the SFC producers had made heavy investments on the faith and trust that they had in Doordarshan. Doordarshan was always a guarantee for money invested by producers because never in the past has such an incident happened where numerous producers have made heavy investments merely on the basis of the approval by Doordarshan. Now it certainly cannot turn around and say that it will arbitrarily change the terms of engagement because any business is based on terms and conditions which have to be honoured by both the parties. In this case while 30 producers are being discriminated against and being put to tremendous financial loss while they are surprised to find 12 SFC slots have been given while the slots are being denied to genuine producers like them. They have trusted Doordarshan and have put their faith, trust and money on Doordarshan thereby risking their entire capital and they will not be able to survive if they are made to suffer the loss of their entire investments.
The above proves that the reason why content on Doordarshan continues to be so horrible and intolerable, is that people having knowledge of the craft of story telling are harassed and tortured beyond words at the hands of those, who select the content because their only criteria is making money for themselves and let the content be damned. They don’t realise that no channel can survive with bad content and if DD which has the largest reach among all channels has to monetise its reach, it has to get people knowing the job of content creation on its side, because the viewer has too many choices and DD is the last for them as it is not entertaining or interesting.
One is shocked that the corruption and nepotism is continuing unhindered and unchanged in Prasar Bharati and DD even though there has been a change in the Government and we now have a government, which claims to be aiming to put an end to corruption. However if in the face of the Government, right under its nose, if DD continues to be so corrupt that it is cannibalising the possible creators of content, which can take it to the top then one has to say that the Government has to be really blind. It is unlikely that the call of hundreds of producers who have been ruined by the various policy flip flops by DD and its affiliate channels, are not heard by those in power. DD seems to be in the business only to collect the deposit of Rs 25,000 as well as under-table amounts at all stages of clearance, after which also they shamefully do not do the work.
I demand that in the public interest this blatant looting should be brought to an end.