DD Prakriti, an exclusive indigenous nature channel aimed at promoting nature conservation films in India and by Indians, is likely to start in 2018 and continue through the period of the National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) that is effective till 2031.
The third-NWAP (2017-2031), which was released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) this month, has recommended the setting up of “an exclusive channel ‘DD-Prakriti’ in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and Doordarshan, for promoting awareness about nature conservation in the country”. It has recommended that the channel continue through the plan period.
“Instead of only consuming Discovery Channel and National Geographic that largely comes to us from outside India, this is a step towards promoting nature films made by Indians and there is a lot of material already to work with,” National Wildlife Board member and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) CEO, Vivek Menon, told The Indian Express.
The NWAP also pointed out that the country is in the “midst of great socio-economic changes which are bound to have significant impacts on the wildlife conservation scenario”. It has said further that “nature literacy” is “one way to ensure that such impacts don’t turn negative”.
While part of the impetus for an “indigenous” nature channel comes from the desire to showcase Indian filmmakers, the NWAP has asked that the Centre “promote the use of electronic media” in nature awareness programmes and explore the use of social media. The move is a step towards promoting “conservation education, nature interpretation and outreach (CENIO)” in the country, the plan states.
In April, the Centre had prohibited the BBC from filming in India’s national parks and wildlife sanctuaries for “irreparable damage done to India’s reputation” for five years for the alleged “grossly erroneous” reporting in a documentary that highlighted the government’s “ruthless anti-poaching strategy” for the Kaziranga tiger reserve in Assam.
However, Doordarshan’s past experiments with launching exclusive channels aimed at different sectors have not had the results that the government had hoped for. DD Prakriti will be the latest in its string of 24×7 channels dedicated to an issue or region.
The first was DD Kisan, launched in 2015, as an exclusive 24×7 channel aimed at the agriculture sector. The I&B ministry earmarked Rs 80 crore in its budget this year for the channel and announced that it will go HD (high-definition) soon after. But last year, monthly viewership for DD Kisan, which had peaked in February with 153 lakh, had dipped to 58 lakh by December, according to a demand-for-grants document submitted in the Lok Sabha. Further, setting up DD Kisan involved “major asset” creation such as a multichannel automated playback facility, multi-camera studio production facility in HDTV format, camcorders, recorders, decks and so on, the documents notes, adding that further “asset creation” is planned for the year. Another dedicated channel aimed at the North-East, DD Arun Prabha, to be based in Arunachal, was announced in April.
However, the manner in which DD Prakriti will be set up is under consultation. “The focus will be on wildlife, biodiversity and forestry,” said Inspector General (Wildlife) Soumitra Dasgupta, adding the channel will be set up with technical inputs from the I&B ministry. “The attempt is to portray Indian wildlife as vividly as possible. However, consultations will begin soon on how to go about setting up the channel,” Dasgupta said.
WTI’s Menon said that India boasts of a “fairly large viewership” for wildlife and nature issues. “Channels like Nat Geo and Discovery do have a large viewership, so Indians are interested in watching and learning about nature,” he said. However, the fate of DD Prakriti, which experts say will provide a good platform for Indian filmmakers and conservationists, will boil down to “content”.
“The visual appeal on DD is not as attractive as Nat Geo or Discovery Channels,” Centre for Science and Environment programme manager (forestry) Ajay Kumar Saxena said. “So it will depend on how DD presents the content.”