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As DD News flirts with independence, it has many questions to answer
On February 9, the day Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged, the government displayed its "boldness" in another way, too. On Newsnight, then a new show on DD News, experts slammed his hanging — a novelty for the state broadcaster. But seven months on, this is now a standard practice. Whether it's 2G or Coalgate, DD News gives space to differing voices, be they experts or Opposition parties. From news readers like Salma Sultan or Pratima Puri to questioning anchors like Munmun, it has been quite a leap.
But just in case one thinks that DD News is going the way of private news channels, it would be good to recall a scene from The Hour. This 2011 BBC TV series, about a fictional current affairs show, has a reporter snapping, "The bulletin is dead!" For the Indian viewer, the traditional news bulletin — a round-up of important domestic and international events — has long been dead, and replaced by shrill talk shows on private news channels, which endlessly debate (rather, agitate) over just one or two "most important" stories of the day. In the backdrop of this cacophony, DD News has been pushing itself as an alternative and turning its "straight" approach into an opportunity.
On January 28, DD News acquired a distinct look. It went purple and yellow, unlike the red-and-blue look of other channels. It also moved towards a wholesome offer, introducing non-sarkari staple in the form of three shows — Newsnight (Hindi), Newsnight (English) and Charcha (Hindi). Smarter and slicker than the channel's usual fare, the shows have tried to do the public broadcaster thing — providing news, and views too, in moderation. Former BBC hand Sanjeev Srivastava and senior journalist Ajai Shukla were appointed to spearhead the shows. Says Srivastava, "We do balanced shows. We don't go overboard on opinion, stay focussed on the news and try to represent the full rainbow of Indian opinion. As a public broadcaster, we think it's our duty to sometimes focus on things that private stations may scoff at, which are important though not sensational, like the Bhutan elections or events in Syria."