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Prasar Bharati set to close year with 13% growth

Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati is set to close fiscal year 2021-22 with a revenue growth of nearly 13% over the previous year, chief executive officer Shashi Shekhar Vempati said.

“Happy to share Prasar Bharati will close FY 2021-2022 with strong revenue growth of 13% from commercial ops at nearly ₹1350 crore, fuelled primarily by strong post Covid recovery of All India Radio and continued growth momentum of FreeDish and Digital despite uncertainty of pandemic,” he tweeted.

Since 2017, the broadcaster has expanded its footprint across segments according to ministry data reviewed by Hindustan Times. The number of Doordarshan’s satellite channels has grown from 23 to 36 in this period, with the number of digital transmitters rising from four to 23. All India Radio has also expanded, with the number of stations increasing from 413 to 485. The broadcaster has also become the largest DTH platform in the country. From 28 million subscribers in 2017, its DTH customer base has now grown to around 45 million, with revenue rising from ₹250 crore to over ₹700 crore. Data also show that Prasar Bharati has introduced a news on air application which has over 1.5 million downloads, and seen its subscribers on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube cross 10 million. Its network viewership growth has witnessed a 66% increase since 2017.

Vempati said the growth was a result of a 2019 change in policy. “Changes were made to how FreeDish DTH slot was being auctioned. From an earlier system where auctions were held randomly throughout the year, we have switched to an annual eAuction system. Further, from just two categories of slots we have moved to five categories of slots based on genre and language,” he said. “This helped bring differential pricing to these slots. Lastly, the eAuction methodology was also changed to ensure competition and prevent cartelisation with a progressive increase in the reserve price. The cumulative impact of these policy changes has resulted in the growth of FreeDish revenues.”

He said that digital has been integral to all activities with daily 800+ digital uploads happening across the network so that all in house produced news and non-news content is available for on demand consumption on digital platforms. NewsOnAir App has been a gamechanger with 200+ live streams.

Prasar Bharati’s latest policy to allow traditional media and over the top platforms lease archival content landed in controversy with a Lok Sabha member of Parliament writing to union minister for information and broadcasting Anurag Thakur to put a stop to it. The public broadcaster is also in the process of restructuring itself so as to allow for greater content generation as it audits its manpower needs.

The audit was based on a benchmarking exercise that compared it with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Prasar Bharati has concluded that it needs to sharply reorient itself, reducing technical staff, and adding content muscle, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity, talking about the restructuring plan of the public broadcaster that runs both Doordarshan and All India Radio.

The restructuring plan, which has been in the works for over three years, is presently under consideration as the body consults various stakeholders.

The present process for change was initiated in 2018, when Prasar Bharati began a manpower audit. The audit was outsourced to Ernst and Young, which evaluated the condition of the service and suggested alterations. The findings were completed in February. They show that nearly half the organisation’s 25,000 employees are employed in the engineering division, whereas the corresponding strength for the BBC is a little over 10%. The content team at Prasar Bharti comprises less than 20% of the workforce, while BBC’s content team accounts for 70%. Hindustan Times

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