In a bid to upgrade Prasar Bharati’s broadcast infrastructure and network, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Wednesday approved a scheme worth more than ₹ 2,500 crore for Doordarshan and All India Radio.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur announced the Central Sector ‘Broadcasting Infrastructure and Network Development (BIND)’ scheme with an outlay of ₹ 2,539.61 crore up to 2025-26, which was approved by the CCEA.
“The BIND scheme is the vehicle for providing financial support to Prasar Bharati for expenses related to expansion and upgradation of its broadcasting infrastructure, content development and civil work related to the organization,” the I&B Ministry said in a statement.
“Prasar Bharati, as the public broadcaster of the country, is the most important vehicle of information, education, entertainment and engagement for the people especially in the remote areas of the country through Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR).
“Prasar Bharati played a stellar role in communicating health messages and awareness to the public during the Covid pandemic,” the statement said.
The BIND scheme will enable the public broadcaster to undertake a major upgradation of its facilities with better infrastructure which will widen its reach, including in the LWE (Left Wing Extremism), border and strategic areas and provide high quality content to the viewers.
Another priority area of the scheme is the development of high-quality content for both domestic and international audiences and ensuring availability of diverse content to the viewers by upgradation of capacity of the DTH platform to accommodate more channels, the ministry said.
Purchase of OB vans and digital upgradation of DD and AIR studios to make them HD ready will also be done as part of the project.
Mr Thakur said that the scheme envisions how Doordarshan should be 20 years from now.
“Prasar Bharti is the public broadcaster…it is not just about profit making. The aim is to ensure information regarding government’s work and schemes reaches people. Different reports have pointed at the quality of content, whether it is Doordarshan or AIR,” said Mr Thakur, adding both DD and AIR are also available on mobile phones.
“We are planning how DD should look 20 years from now,” he said.
According to the I&B Ministry, at present, Doordarshan operates 36 TV channels, including 28 regional channels, and AIR operates more than 500 broadcasting centres. The BIND scheme will increase coverage of AIR FM transmitters in the country to 66 per cent by geographical area, up from current 59 per cent, and 80 per cent by population, up from present 68 per cent coverage.
Under the scheme, eight lakh DD Free Dish DTH set top boxes (STBs) will also be distributed to people living in remote, tribal, LWE, border areas and ‘aspirational’ districts.
In addition to enhancing the scope of public broadcasting, the project for modernization and augmentation of broadcast infrastructure also has the potential to generate indirect employment by way of manufacturing and services related to supply and installation of broadcast equipment.
According to the statement, content generation and innovation for AIR and DD has the potential of indirect employment of persons with varied experience of different media fields in the content production sector, including TV/Radio production, transmission and associated media related services.
The project for expansion of the reach of DD Free Dish is also expected to generate employment opportunities in the manufacturing of STBs.
“The government reiterates its commitment to the development, modernization and strengthening of Doordarshan and Akashvani (Prasar Bharati) infrastructure and services, which is a continuous process,” the ministry added.