Launched to promote Kashmiri culture and counter Pakistani propaganda, Doordarshan’s 24-hour channel in Jammu and Kashmir, DD Kashir has not produced any cultural programme in six years. While the channel continues to broadcast news, interviews, and an educational show for students, major part of its schedule consists of repeat telecasts or programmes lifted from sister channels like DD Urdu and DD Kisan. Despite a continued demand for work from its producers, DD Kashir has produced no serials, documentaries, or reality shows in years. “The last cultural programme I remember was a special episode for Eid in 2012,” said Parveen Azad, a singer with the channel. “At its launch in 2000, (then) I&B Minister Arun Jaitely had assured us that DD Kashir would promote Kashmiri culture and give opportunity to budding talent in the region,” said Ayash Arif, a producer for DD Kashir.
But Head of Programmes, GD Tahir, said, “We have in-house programmes, but we do not make any culture shows. 104 programmes were approved in 2009, but none of them have been commissioned yet,” said Arif. “The channel also lost most of its digital library in the 2014 floods. So now, they are running decades-old shows which have no relevance today.”
“There are several reasons why we have fewer programmes. There is a lack of funds and we also have a smaller staff,” said a senior official at Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar. Responding to protests by the producers, Prasar Bharati in 2015 had stated, “Programmes remain to be commissioned and work orders issued… The current problem is on how to finance these 104 approved programme proposals, for which a commitment of Rs 13.5 crore is projected by Doordarshan. Prasar Bharati can hardly maintain its own liabilities and is unable to bear additional responsibilities on behalf of every private producers.”
Prasar Bharati, which has been operating Doordarshan Srinagar since 1973, had launched DD Kashir in 2000 with funds worth Rs 480 crores. Viewers today complain of declining quality. “I have been watching DD Kashir since I was a kid. There are no new shows, and I must have watched each old show five to six times,” said Siraj Shah, a resident of downtown Srinagar.
“The quality of the content is very crass. It often misrepresents the Kashmiri culture by giving it a Bollywood influence,” said Farooq Masudi, head of Kashmir University’s Media Education Research Centre. Media producers and cultural activists from the Valley met on Tuesday to discuss the present state of the channel. The group issued a statement saying, “DD Kashir is not only a defunct institution, but due to choking of financial resources by the authorities at Prasar Bharati and Doordarshan Directorate, the local administration has been left with no choice but to telecast trash in the name of repeat telecast of decades old programmes. The content and the presentation standard of these programmes is a disservice to Kashmir’s culture.”
“Several programmes are in the pipeline,” Shailendra Kumar, Additional Director General (Administration), Doordarshan, said when questioned about the current dry spell. Additional Director General LR Vishvanath, who is in-charge of DD Kashir, said he was not authorised to comment on the issue.