Technology has been a huge enabler and rescuer during the pandemic, says Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi S Vempati
Prasar Bharati CEO, Shashi Shekhar Vempati addressed the third ABU-RAI DAYS 2021 discussion on “A new world out of COVID: Can Public Service Media help to create more open, inclusive and tolerant societies?”
Speaking at the virtual event, CEO said that he sees potential in 5G broadcasting as the audience is increasingly moving away from traditional broadcasting to internet broadcasting. He said that one should be able to use the broadcast frequencies to directly reach citizens on their choice of device.
CEO Vempati discussed a number of topics like combating fake news and misinformation, building trust during the pandemic, technology, and more.
RAI is an Italian public service broadcaster. The event was organized in cooperation with the ABU on June 14 and 15, 2021.
Technology – enabler and rescuer
During the address, CEO Vempati spoke on the role of technology during the pandemic, which he said has been a huge enabler and a big rescuer, especially the digital tools and information technology system.
The right IT systems in place and the ability to quickly get the staff enabled on crucial digital tools came together in keeping the operations going and the basic technology played the role of a huge enabler for Prasar Bharati during the pandemic.
CEO Vempati said that going forward, advanced technology like artificial intelligence has a big role to play, especially in India, which has a diversified population. He also said that he sees potential in 5G broadcasting as the audience is increasingly moving away from traditional broadcasting to internet broadcasting. He said that one should be able to use the broadcast frequencies to directly reach citizens’ on their choice of device.
He further added that with the increasing growth of digital platforms, good content is equally important.
Challenges to the public broadcaster during the pandemic
Speaking of the challenges the public broadcaster faced during the pandemic, the Prasar Bharati CEO said that the biggest challenge for them was tackling the flood of fake news and misinformation doing rounds on social media platforms during the pandemic.
“Our whole understanding of the science of the pandemic was itself shifting every few weeks, every few months. Within that environment, you had a flood of misinformation, especially on social media platforms, WhatsApp groups, you know, wrong information going viral,” he said.
Elaborating it further, he said, “So the biggest challenge for the public broadcaster was countering these, putting out the right information at the right time in all the possible languages, in all the different regions so that the citizens were accurately informed.”
The other challenge for the public broadcaster was meeting the high expectations of the citizens. “In India, public service media continues to be considered the most credible and authentic source of information. So often, when we get it wrong, it goes viral,” he said.
“We have to be 100% sure that all the information that we put out is very accurate, because in the minds of the citizens, this is one place where they can get authentic and credible information, and they continue to rely on it,” CEO Vempati added.
Increase in viewership during the pandemic
During the pandemic, when the country was under a lockdown, the public broadcaster was working every day and kept its services on. During this time, the public broadcaster also witnessed an extremely high viewership and Doordarshan broke every record out there in terms of television viewership for a series.
“Television viewership hit an all-time high in India, we had the Epics, Ramayana and Mahabharat aired, (and) families got together during the lockdown. They were all glued to the television sets, watching Doordarshan,” he was quoted as saying.
International cooperation during the pandemic
Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati said that international platforms like ABU have been playing a critical role in bringing all together despite not having physical events and meetings, through the online and content sharing platforms.
“We have been able to share a lot of what was happening in India through the (content sharing) platform and that created a lot of awareness. Similarly, through the online sessions, there was a lot of exchange of best practices, lessons learned, so many new things we learned on how public broadcasters across the Asia-Pacific were coping with the pandemic,” he said.
The pandemic was no longer a barrier as it was easy to go beyond the geography of Asia-Pacific and build relationships. “We were able to reach out to public broadcasters in Argentina, in Brazil, do online meetings, and put in place a content exchange program. The day that we had the interaction with our Argentinian counterparts, was the day that Diego Maradona passed away. So, we were able to leverage that relationship very quickly to get live feeds and live content from Argentina on the breaking coverage around that development,” CEO Vempati shared.
Similarly, when Brazil launched its first satellite from India using the Indian space infrastructure, Prasar Bharati covered the live event and gave it to its Brazilian counterpart. “All of these happened online through Zoom meetings, working out the details and setting it up,” he added on how technology, enabled international cooperation during this period.
Innovation is the key
During the pandemic, the public broadcaster faced disruptions with production. However, they engaged in a lot of innovative efforts. “We trapped into our archives and brought a lot of formats of content from our archives,” he said.
During the pandemic, Prasar Bharati got writers and authors to read their books on radios remotely, and also put 10,000 different radio dramas online, on the digital platform for the first time which generated a new audience. “We got Ruskin Bond, a celebrated Indian author to read stories from his books for children,” CEO Vempati said.
“So, new formats of content without a whole lot of in-studio presence, where you could remotely do it that made a difference to bring content during the pandemic. And this process goes on. These innovative efforts will have to continue till we all are safe and we all come out of this pandemic,” he further added.Need to bring Broadcasting to Smartphones through convergence between 5G Broadcasting & Cellular Standards: Prasar Bharati CEO