With a recurring expenditure of Rs 540 million, the government
will provide budgetary support for the first two years during which
it will have to become self-sufficient, the Press Trust of India
quoted parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj as saying, after
Friday's cabinet meeting.
"We have taken up the challenge of generating revenue from DD News
so that self sufficiency can be achieved at the end of the third
year," Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma had told journalists last Wednesday
on the sidelines of announcing an initiative to start voice training
(for radio) culture through the Staff Training Institute of AIR.
According to Sarma, the revenue target for the remaining period
of the current financial year, ending 31 March, 2004, is Rs 20 million.
For the year 2004-05, the target would be Rs 200 million and for
the next year the goal is to try mop up Rs 540 million.
Terrestrial viewers as well as the satellite signal viewers will
be able to receive the proposed channel thereby giving it a distinctive
edge over private satellite news channels. DD Metro terrestrial
channel can be received by about 43 per cent of the population.
The decision to close DD Metro is not without its opponenets though.
A public interest litigation (PIL) petition challenging the government’s
decision to convert DD Metro into a news channel has been filed
in the Delhi High Court, PTI has reported.
After a brief hearing on 2 October, a bench comprising Chief Justice
BC Patel and Justice AK Sikri, deferred the hearing to 22 October.
PTI reported that the PIL, filed by one Vinod Jain through senior
advocate Rajiv Nayar and Kamal Mehta, alleged that the decision
to convert the free-to-air entertainment channel into a news channel
was because of extraneous considerations.
The petitioner pointed out that the DD News "experiment"
had already been tried earlier with disastrous results. DD news
was first launched in 1999 at a cost of Rs 930 million. It was eventually
shut down on 25 January 2002 due to heavy losses.
Meanwhile, the project report prepared by Prasar Bharati had initially
envisaged an investment of Rs 1310 million, including the cost of
additional manpower that would be needed for the news channel. The
project report had said that since there are very few people with
DD metro channel (that is being closed down to make way for DD News),
more staffers would be needed and permission had been sought to
go in for direct recruitment, an exercise that has been frozen for
quite some time now, considering the size of Prasar Bharati, which
has on its payroll over 40,000 employees.
When the finance ministry raised objections, this figure was subsequently
pruned to Rs 960 million. The finance ministry ultimately gave its
okay for additional aid of Rs 560 million for DD News.
At present, DD telecasts news bulletins from Delhi Kendra for a
total of three and a half hours every day and the regional News
Units put out news bulletins for a total time of approximately twelve
and a half hours daily.
News targets self-sufficiency in Year 3 of operations