Why no Sindhi TV channel? DD says it is too expensive
The demand for a television channel in Sindhi is more than a decade old.
In November 2007, Sindhi Sangat, a cultural group, approached the Delhi high court with a petition asking that the government broadcaster, Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan channels, should provide a service in their language. However, the government’s response to the demand has been disappointing for the community.
In July 2017, the government told the court that Doordarshan did not have the finances, staff, or the spectrum, to start a new channel. The government also said that the last census counted around 2.5 million Sindhi speakers in the country and that a ‘full time’ channel will not be sustainable for a language that does not have many speakers.
Doordarshan runs 17 regional channels, but the government broadcaster told the court that the channels were not aimed at linguistic groups but showcased the cultural heritage of those regions. In 2009, the Ahmedabad broadcasting station, which did a project report on the demand, said that a full-time channel in Sindhi will cost around ₹20 crore annually. In July 2011, Prasar Bharti said that they did not find the idea of a Sindhi language channel feasible.
After the string of disappointments there is hope for those campaigning for a Sindhi television channel. Last week, the government told the Delhi high court that can allot a slot in a regional channel for programmes in Sindhi.
“They are exploring the possibility of a dedicated slot on an existing channel,” said senior lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani who is representing the petitioners. “For a start it will not be a 24-hour channel but they will call it DD Sindhi.”
Sindhi speakers want the government to set up a television channel in their language since private broadcasters, which operate in all the major languages of the country, have not been successful in sustaining services. In 2013, a privately-run bilingual Sindhi-Kachchhi television station based in Adipur, Kutch (which has a large number of Sindhi speakers) shut down. The channel had bulk of its programming in Sindhi and the rest in Kutchi, a closely-related language. But the loss-making channel lost its licence after failing to pay broadcasting fees to the government. There are television stations broadcasting from Sindh in Pakistan, but the content is not popular among India’s Sindhi speakers.
The community says that their language is included in the Schedule 8 of the Constitution, which lists the country’s official languages, and therefore makes it obligatory for the government to promote the language and culture. But Prasar Bharati has been saying that it is not entailed to start a television channel in the language because Sindhi, like other scheduled languages – Bodo, Dogri, Maithili, Santhali, Sanskrit and Nepali – is not the principal language of a state, though it the second-biggest linguistic group in Gujarat.
After the shutting down of the Kutch-based television station, Sindhi Sangat decided to file a writ petition in Delhi. Sindhi speakers were also asked to send thousands of postcards to the prime minister’s office to get his attention. They also started an online petition to get the government’s attention to the issue. The groups are now preparing for a new campaign: to ensure that the proposed channel gets enough viewers to stay feasible.
“Now our dreams will turn into reality. It will be our mission to watch a few hours of DD Sindhi with our family every day. We must make sure we get 1 crore viewership for the new channel,” said writer Asha Chand who heads Sindhi Sangat.
Gitanjali Kalro, who is helping in the campaign for the new channel, said that the community is emotional about the issue.
“We have a dream of hearing our language on television,” said Kalro who already has ideas about what kind of programmes could work for the new station. “Business news, as business is a big part of our culture. Movies are a problem because there are not many film producers, but Sindhi music has seen a big revival because of the digital forum. Sports too..imagine listening to Pankaj Advani (international billiards champion) speaking in Sindhi.”