World Television Day: Remember Doordarshan? A glimpse of the journey of Indian television

World Television Day: Remember Doordarshan? A glimpse of the journey of Indian television

Ahead of World Television Day (November 21), FPJ looks at the journey of television and how far we have come from the day of Doordarshan

Neha SinghUpdated: Sunday, November 20, 2022, 02:12 PM IST
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There was a time when watching TV meant Doordarshan — that too in black and white! Doordarshan, introduced a generation to a new world on the small screen over 60 years ago. And, Mumbai Doordarshan is celebrating its golden jubilee this year.

It aired shows that focused on community health, citizens’ responsibilities and rights, and traffic and road safety. Gradually, with time, Doordarshan grew into a major television broadcaster with around 30 or more channels.

The 1980s marked a turning point in Indian television history. The Asian Games and Doordarshan’s introduction into the nation’s living rooms altered the entertainment sector in the country. This was also when television moved to the coloured era. The standard of movies was declining, while television was introducing a new form of involvement to the general public. The writers of television classics like Hum Log (1984), Buniyaad (1986), and Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne (1989) changed how the audience consumed content on the small screen. 

The new phase of Indian television began with popular programmes like Ramayan, Mahabharat, Byomkesh Bakshi, Circus, Fauji, Malgudi Days, Shaktimaan, Shriman Shrimati, among others. Families and neighbours gathered in front of a single television set to watch these programmes and it played a huge role in bringing people together.

A still from circus

A still from circus |

A few years down the line, channels like STAR and ZEE TV entered the market, followed by several regional channels, news channels, cartoon channels, movie channels, and more.

With time, the lure of varied content led to people moving from DD. Today’s Gen Z might now even know much about DD. With the advent of OTT, even regular television watchers have shifted their focus. 

However, during the pandemic, DD re-telecast some of its popular programmes from the 80s and 90s. And voila, people were transported to the olden days of DD. The shows took the older generation on a nostalgic trip. and introduced the young generation to the television of a bygone era. 

A still from Buniyaad

A still from Buniyaad |

The journey of Indian television has come a long way, but it has to work hard if it wants to survive in today’s era. In a bid to understand what the audience is watching (if at all) on television these days, The Free Press Journal spoke to audiences from different generations.

Dolly Thakore, veteran Indian theatre actress and Doordarshan news reader

I started my career with Doordarshan, as a news reader, and I enjoyed the recognition I received. Back in the early Seventies, whenever we entered a reception or gathering of corporate heavies at a five-star hotel after reading the news, people would rush up to ask what the latest news was on a particular topical subject. and we'd feel special and important. There were strict recruitment guidelines. The quality of voice and pronunciation got top priority. Sadly, those days are gone.

People are not interested in the news like they used to be. In those days, news was new; there was a novelty about it. Our faces being recognised in restaurants, shops, and even by taxi and scooter drivers got us concessions and preferences in service and payment. Even telephone operators recognised our voices, and we got priority when booking trunk calls! Alas, that is no more! Neighbors flocked to your door at News Hour to watch Kumud Merani, Sarita Sethi in Hindi -- or Luku Sanyal, Nirmala Mathan and yours truly in English Doordarshan got left behind with the advent of Newstrack NDTV, etc. They were slow in investing in modern equipment and technology.

While Doorsdarshan was certainly government-controlled, it was still a novelty. Fifty years later, I am frequently approached by people with receding hairlines and balding heads who complain about being woken up by their parents after 9 p.m. to watch the English News, which still delights the heart!

There is such a surfeit of channels that news gets less priority. And because there is so much repetition, people prefer to watch news online... and news is no longer read; it is shouted! And the quality of the voice is poor. Though Rajdeep Sardesai, Faye D'souza, and Barkha Dutt have made a great impact, they are no longer in the mainstream media. Today, people who own smart TVs turn them on to watch OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Prime Video, Hotstar, et al.

Malishka Mendonsa, actor and radio jockey

Pic: Instagram/ Malishka Mendonsa

Whenever I watch television, it’s mostly National Geographic channel. I find animals and their world fascinating as we learn from them about humankind. I have perhaps last seen DD during the last Independence Day Parade.

Nandini Sardesai, educationist

I generally watch television for news and sports like cricket, football, and tennis, among others. And for news in general, I watch the India Today news channel. I don’t remember when I last watched DD.

Ritika Rawat, digital marketing executive

I usually watch Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild, and the last time I watched DD was a few years ago, for an India versus Pakistan cricket match.

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