Prasar Bharati CEO Gaurav Dwivedi: Daily Programs for the Hearing-Impaired Are at the Heart of Our Inclusivity Efforts on DD News

By NAYAN SING

In today’s world, inclusivity is not just a buzzword but a commitment that organizations must uphold. Prasar Bharati, India’s public service broadcaster, has taken inclusivity to heart, especially when it comes to providing programs for the hearing-impaired. Under the leadership of CEO Gaurav Dwivedi, Prasar Bharati has made significant strides in this area, ensuring that the voice of the speech- and hearing-impaired is heard and understood. In this article, we will delve into Prasar Bharati’s initiatives and their impact on making television more inclusive.

Prasar Bharati’s Commitment to Inclusivity

Gaurav Dwivedi, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Chhattisgarh cadre, took on the role of CEO at Prasar Bharati in November 2022, embarking on a five-year tenure. His appointment was a testament to his dedication to public service, which he had previously demonstrated as the CEO of MyGovIndia, the citizen engagement platform of the Union government. Dwivedi’s commitment to excellence in administration earned him the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award.

Ashwani Sharma of Outlook recently sat down with Dwivedi to discuss Prasar Bharati’s efforts to reach out to the hearing- and speech-impaired population in India through Doordarshan and other mediums. Dwivedi highlighted the organization’s unwavering commitment to inclusivity.

The Beginning of a Vision

Prasar Bharati has always been at the forefront of media innovation. The realization that content should be accessible to every segment of society, including the speech- and hearing-impaired, was a pivotal moment in the organization’s journey. In 1987, Doordarshan began producing comprehensive accessible TV news for the hearing impaired in the form of a weekly sign language news bulletin. This marked the beginning of a vision to make information more accessible.

The Impact of a Pioneering Initiative

In 2007, India ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), committing to a barrier-free environment and enhanced accessibility. In 2009, the Union government approved subtitled daily news for the hearing impaired on Doordarshan. This initiative had a profound impact, and DD News played a pivotal role in taking this national service to the next level. Today, DD News is a major provider of news for speech- and hearing-impaired people in the entire news TV industry.

Multiple Bulletins for the Hearing-Impaired

DD News currently broadcasts two daily bulletins dedicated to speech and hearing-impaired individuals. One bulletin airs for 15 minutes in the morning, and another runs for 30 minutes in the evening. Additionally, DD News provides sign language interpretation for special broadcasts on occasions like Republic Day and other national events. These bulletins are not limited to DD News alone; they are also made available to private TV channels across the country, emphasizing their importance in the nation’s inclusive development.

Reaching Across the Nation

Prasar Bharati’s commitment to inclusivity extends to both national and regional channels. DD News airs two daily bulletins tailored specifically for the speech- and hearing-impaired audience on these channels. Beyond the daily bulletins, DD News regional units also broadcast news bulletins with sign language interpretation, further expanding the reach and impact of these initiatives.

Mandating Inclusivity

In 2019, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting made it mandatory for all private news channels to air news for the speech and hearing impaired. This mandate has significantly broadened the accessibility of news to this segment of the population. The average viewership of these bulletins on DD News has been steadily increasing, indicating their relevance and impact.

Beyond News: Inclusive Programming

Prasar Bharati’s commitment to inclusivity goes beyond news bulletins. Cabinet briefings, Independence Day celebrations, Republic Day events, and the President’s address to the nation are all telecast with sign language interpretation. Even the Prime Minister’s monthly program, ‘Mann Ki Baat,’ is telecast in sign language. This comprehensive approach aims to ensure that specially-abled individuals can access a wide range of content.

Creating Employment Opportunities

DD News has not only provided accessibility but also created employment opportunities for hearing-impaired individuals. They are hired as anchors, presenters, and news readers, making them an integral part of the media landscape. DD News collaborates with the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) to ensure the quality of the workforce in its sign language bulletins.

Training for Effective Communication

DD News conducts training programs for sign language interpreters and presenters to ensure accurate and effective communication. Collaborating with ISLRTC, DD News strives to maintain high standards in sign language interpretation, further enhancing the accessibility of its content.

The Way Forward

Looking ahead, Prasar Bharati, under the leadership of Director General of Doordarshan, has formed a Core Group with domain experts and stakeholders to develop a suggestive framework for industry readiness. This framework includes the availability of Set-Top Boxes (STBs), remotes, and TVs for accessing content by Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) individuals. In a rapidly evolving world, sign language is no longer a barrier to communication, and the commitment to inclusivity continues to grow.

Conclusion

Prasar Bharati’s CEO, Gaurav Dwivedi, has spearheaded initiatives that make television more inclusive and comprehensive. From pioneering sign language news bulletins to providing employment opportunities and ensuring accessibility across national and regional channels, Prasar Bharati is setting a remarkable example for inclusivity in the media industry.

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