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News channel comes down to Earth

Dispatch: India

NEW DELHI — India’s state-run national broadcaster Doordarshan is re-launching its 24-hour news and current affairs channel as a terrestrial feed, in place of the failed satellite venture that aired for a few months this year.

The bilingual Hindi-English news channel will be up and running by year’s end. India already boasts more than a dozen round-the-clock news channels. Doordarshan will not seek a slice of their mainly urban pie but will target the vast rural audience. The finance ministry has set aside 1.15 billion rupees ($24 million) for the project, of which $17 million will upgrade technology and staff levels.

One DD official said the previous venture failed because, as a satellite channel, it was not received in the majority of India’s 84 million television homes.

“The aim of DD News is to tap this vast number of viewers who still have black and white televisions (about 54 million TV households),” he said.

Doordarshan launched in 1959, and is one of the largest terrestrial networks in the world, operating 23 channels reaching more than 89% of India’s billion-plus population, according to the broadcaster.