Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s October 3 address on All India Radio may mark the beginning of a new trend that would see him frequently turning to state broadcasters for communicating with the public on key issues.
The Modi government’s communication strategy of relying more on state-owned media has got Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR) all tuned up though DD continues to battle for autonomy apart from staffing problems and resource allocation.
Modi will be the first PM to speak on AIR in a long time. Doordarshan, too, expects him to make substantial use of DD News — the state broadcaster’s news channel — going beyond the usual sound bytes.
“We look forward not only because of its (AIR’s) directness as a form of communication but also because it will rejuvenate the radio medium in India,” said Jawhar Sircar, the CEO of Prasar Bharti which runs DD.
In a hint that the PM could make such use of state media from time to time, the government’s official citizen-centric website <mygov.in> even ran a poll to gauge how frequently people wanted to hear him on radio.
DD News is setting up a top-of-the-line facility at 7, RCR —Modi’s official residence — one that has fibre-optic connectivity and dedicated standby teams. AIR, too, is ready with its setup there.
“It will be our privilege. It is our responsibility as public broadcaster. We will deploy our most experienced team of editors, camera unit and engineers there,” Archana Dutta, the director general of DD News, said.
With a PM who sees communication as a key tool, the government’s publicity apparatus is looking to up its game, with top officials keeping a close watch.
However, critics say in a country with a diverse media landscape, relying only on official channels could have its own consequences. On Tuesday, the Editors Guild of India criticised the Modi government for limiting “access of journalists” to the officialdom, asking him to open up.
On most of his official trips abroad, including the five-day visit to the US that opens September 26, Modi has relied on state broadcasters for coverage. Most Indian channels that will cover the US tour are not part of the official entourage.