Marketing Northeast: The Prashar Bharati Way


After almost a gap of five years the Prasar Bharati under the ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Union government has announced invitation for commissioned programmes for telecast on Northeast Doordarshan channel. The invitation for programme proposals from producers or filmmakers are specifically for the new 24 x 7 satellite channel DD – Anuprabha, which is going to be launched soon. The channel is going to be Doordarshan’s second satellite channel after the existing DD North East. To quote the chairperson of Prashar Bharati, A. Surya Prakash, ‘the existing channel has not been able to meet the cultural needs of the area because of its cultural diversity and multiple languages and dialects’. Significantly financial allocation of the said channel was included in the NDA government’s first budget. The announcement of commissioned programmes by Prashar Bharati after a long gap is encouraging particularly for the Northeast producers. This is a much needed opportunity that has long been awaited. The guidelines for the Commissioned Programmes points out that ‘Doordarshan is making special efforts to promote and nurture talent, provide a platform to producers and artists, encourage production of programmes in required languages and dialects for benefit of Doordarshan viewers’. Besides the promotion and nurturing of culture, talent, art and artists, what is also equally important is the financial assistance that comes with the production. It is true that most of the producers of the North-eastern states are independent filmmakers, who are badly in need of financial support. Most of them till today have been able to subsist because of sheer passion for filmmaking. Not because of any sustained patronage either from the government or private enterprises. The recent announcement for commissioned programme was therefore received well.

Yet the much-awaited invitation did come with certain grey areas and shortcomings. One, the announcement was made on January 1 this year. The last date of submission of proposal was given as 17 of the same month. This absurd deadline compelled the producers to petition the ministry and it has been extended till January 31. Two, the production guideline makes it mandatory for the producers to furnish 100 percent irrevocable bank guarantee of the total budget, if the proposals are selected. This amount of money as bank guarantee is going to be a huge burden to the producers of the Northeast. We have seen in the past filmmakers making films for commissioned programmes by pawning off ancestral properties. A disheartening practice compelled by puerile and daunting guidelines. Detestably the Brashar Bharati refuses to bend even after being petitioned by the producers to reduce it to at least 50 percent. It may be noted that there is a proportionate share left for the well-off ‘mainland’ producers to produce programmes for the DD Arunprabha. This is how the ministry is going to nurture talent and promote cultural diversity by turning a blind eye to the financial position of the Northeast producers. This is how the channel is going to ‘seamlessly integrate the Northeast with the entire country’. Three, the proposals are to be submitted either in Hindi or English. This is logical as the selection panel would not understand the regional languages. But in this regards, the guideline is not clear whether regional language could be used as a medium with English subtitles in the programmes. Though the guideline flaunts about ‘encouraging language/dialects’ in a patronising tone. As far as DD North East programmes are concern, we have also seen in the past local artists mumbling either English or Hindi words in an edgy manner. They have been deprived of their right to speak their mother tongue all because of the Prashar Bharati guidelines. A cursory glance of the programme genre includes daily serials, thrillers, mythological serials, telefilms, quiz shows with ‘celebrity’ anchor person, travelogue in documentary format with ‘celebrity’ and reality shows. What is left unsaid but clearly evident is that Prashar Bharati is up to packaging the Northeast by exoticising its cultural diversity to be showcased through a satellite channel. Among the hundreds corporate funded channels and the rat race for Television Rating Point (TRP), it is best left to be seen if DD Arunprabha will be able to seamlessly integrate the Northeast with the entire country.

Leader Writer: Senate Kh.

Source: Imphal Free Press


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