Doordarshan’s plans to sell prime time slots put on hold

Doordarshan’s ambitious plan to sell prime time slots to private players put on hold barely days before its launch. Balaji Telefilms and Saaibaba Telefilms had won the slots through an auction



Barely days before two leading production houses were to launch their programmes in the prime time slots on Doordarshan around mid-August, the Information & Broadcasting ministry reportedly decided to put the slot selling process on hold.



Top sources in the ministry claimed that the new minister Smriti Irani who took charge of the ministry in July 2017, decided to contemplate the idea afresh as she was not comfortable with selling Doordarshan prime time to private players. “The concept was resisted by several top bureaucrats too in the initial stage. However, with the new minister taking charge it was decided to put it on hold and contemplate it further. Many believe that the idea compromises the existence of Doordarshan as a public broadcaster,” a senior bureaucrat who did not wish to be quoted told exchange4media.



The decision to auction programming slots was part of Prasar Bharati’s efforts to revamp the entire Doordarshan network and hence revive the viewership and finances of the organisation.



Industry sources, however, hint at other reasons. Sources claim that Irani decided to hold it due to pressure from the production houses who later realised that the project was not worth investing in. “Ad rates on Doordarshan could not match the production cost and the production houses themselves were reluctant to go ahead,” claimed a senior industry person.



Despite calls and messages, exchange4media did not get any response or comments from either Balaji Telefilms or Saaibaba Telefilms.



Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms and Saaibaba Telefilms were all set to run their prime time shows on the national channel of state broadcaster Doordarshan.



After a two-day prime time programming slot auction that took place in December 2016, Balaji Telefilms, the maker of super-hit fiction shows such as Pavitra Bandhan (which runs on DD National) and Kumkum Bhagya (on Zee) successfully bagged four slots (half an hour each for 8-10 pm programming) from Monday to Thursday. As for Friday, the production house won two slots for 8-9 pm programming.



Saaibaba Telefilms had won three slots in the auction—one half an hour slot from Monday to Friday and two one-hour slots for Saturday and Sunday.



“BAG Films & Media had also participated in the auction, but its bids were lower than those of Balaji’s. Another production house SOL Productions was disqualified for openly bidding, while participants were required to bid in closed envelopes,” said a Doordarshan official who did not wish to be identified.



Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio in May 2016 had put up 7-11 pm slots on all weekdays on auction, while keeping the 7-8 pm slot on Saturdays for its own content. The broadcaster had conducted two application rounds but none of them materialised due to shortcomings in the applications.

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