Dubai: Doordarshan (tele-vision) has turned 50. The Indian national broadcaster that began operation on September 15, 1959 with a staff of 10 to 15 people and with a small transmitter has survived the burgeoning of private satellite channels in this digital age.
Being the sole entertainer in 1980s, serials like Hum Log, Buniyaad and Nukkad were watched by millions. The mythological drama Ramayan broadcast during 1987-88 literally brought the entire nation to a standstill on Sundays.
A new chapter in its broadcasting history was written when the television services were extended to Mumbai and Amritsar in 1972. By 1975, seven cities had television service, and now with the staff strength of 3,000 scattered all over the country, the state-run network has 1,400 ground-based transmitters with 46 studios producing programmes daily.
Speaking to Gulf News from Chennai, former Deputy Director General of Doordarshan, Sanapathi said: "It has been a humble beginning for the state broadcaster, but now it has blossomed to become one of the world's leading service provider with the total area covered of 93 per cent in India."
He added: "People still now tune in to watch Doordarshan for urban and rural-based programmes," he said.
Sanapathi, who joined Doordarshan in 1975, said one of the finest moments of his career came, when the national broadcaster beamed colour transmission in 1982.
"It was the year when India was the host for the Asian Games in New Delhi," he said.
Sanapathi said though Doordarshan is a state-controlled entity, some how it has managed to remain impartial towards all the political parties.
"Often people compare Doordarshan's views with those of the politicians holding power at the Centre. But frankly speaking, like other private news channels, it does, at times show government's apathy in a milder way."
However, Sanapathi said, the sad part of the institution is that it has not been able to recruit young programmers since 1991.
With the 2010 Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in New Delhi, the "Grand Old Lady" of India's television network is set to broadcast the event on its high-definition format.