DD loses to PTV in Jammu and Kashmir

BY Zafar Choudhary| IN Regional Media | 28/09/2006
Poor terrestrial visibility of Doordarshan in the rural areas and blithe disregard of DD channels by cable operators, gives PTV the edge.

Zafar Choudhary

Besides separatist violence, a disinformation campaign and propaganda against Indian State run by Pakistan is yet another battle ground in Jammu and Kashmir. Various official media units of the Government of India, primarily the Doordarshan, shell out a good amount of money every month on making special programs and documentaries showcasing the democracy and secularism of India but at the end of the day, it is the Pakistani view point that has considerable influence.  In the rural countryside people refer to going to Delhi or even the neighboring Punjab as going to `Hindustan`, which means accepting what Pakistan suggests about the status of Jammu and Kashmir, even though this is countered by the Indian media.

With an electronic boom in the country and many new channels ranging from news and entertainment coming up every year, the viewer now has a choice to make. However, in Jammu and Kashmir Pakistan Television (PTV) still maintains a large viewership in the rural countryside. Particularly in rural areas -where cable networks have not reached -infour districts along the Line of Control -Rajouri, Poonch, Baramulla and Kupwara and in two districts along the International Border - Jammu and Kathua, PTV still remains only entertainer and informer for a majority. The official electronic media of India, Doordarshan, has poor quality reception with no reach at all in various remote areas.

In urban areas, however, the Doordarshan is fighting a different kind of war. Its programs are not reaching the majority of people who are being fed with the India-India propaganda launched by Pakistan through its electronic media. One of the reasons for Doordarshan`s inability to counter this war is violation of rules by private cable TV operators who continue to beam the PTV and another Pakistani channel GEO TV channel blacking out Doordarshan.

As per the prevailing rules of cable TV Act here, the cable operators are under obligation to carry three official channels -DD national, DD news and local government channel. Not only this, they are required to beam these channels in the prime band. However, most of the cable operators in Jammu and Kashmir are openly violating the cable rules. Either the DD channels are not available at all on the cable TV networks or their visibility and audio are so poor that nobody would like to watch them. Officials at the local Doordarshan Kendra say that matter has been taken up with the local regulator authorities several times but there is still no improvement. ?When pulled up vigorously they (operators) carry a couple of DD channels but after few weeks situation comes back to square one?, said an official at DD`s Jammu Kendra.

?We are worried over this scenario?, says another official of the DD as he goes on adding: ?non-availability of our programs to the viewers defeat one important objective -to counter the Pakistan`s negative propaganda against India State through its electronic media?. The officials at the Doordarshan Kendras of Jammu and Srinagar admit that due to poor reception and visibility, the PTV reach is still increasing in almost entire Kashmir Valley and at least four districts of Jammu region close to the Line of Control and International Border. The director of the Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar, Shahzadi Simon says that no channel is banned in Jammu and Kashmir except those which telecast vulgar programmes. The state directorate of Information had recently banned four such channels. Simon says, the issue of carrying official channels by the cable operators has to be enforced by the concerned district magistrates.

?We have written to the cable operators several times making it mandatory for them to carry three Doordarshan channels on band, however, no positive results have come?, says Hridesh Kumar Singh, District Magistrate of Jammu. He maintains, ?if this violation continues the administrative will take strict action?.  

Working with an infrastructure of 110 High Power Transmitters (HPTs), Low Power Transmitters (LPTs) and Very Low Power Transmitters (VPTs), the government run Doordarshan channels are virtually finding paralyzed. The cable operators, however, deny violation of rules and attribute the poor reception of Doordarshan to the weak equipment of the official channel.

Though both DD and PTV are terrestrial channels -available with antenna -PTV is locally available without antenna -courtesy cable operators. It is also learnt that most of the DD transmitters are either VLPTs or LPTs while PTV has clear visuals as it mostly uses HPTs and LPTs in areas close to the Line of Control and International Border.  

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