And the Award goes to

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
19 August 2016 00:22 IST

Award is a recognition; not an achievement.

Any person is awarded for his or her contribution for a long time in a particular field and not necessarily at the moment when the award is bestowed upon. 

I was thus hesitating to accept the prestigious Best TV Journalist award instituted by the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This is the third year. I am grateful to the independent members of juries who thought of me for the award. But the hesitation was because I am getting it too early when the immense contribution of the veterans in TV Journalism has not been recognised. I discussed my hesitation with few members of the juries and the GCCI officials and also requested them to consider my name at a later stage. But it was too late to make any changes; not that I had succeeded in convincing them about my sincere feelings. I thus decided to accept the award, but while taking a brief review of TV journalism in Goa. The facts could be incomplete, but I feel a beginning is called for.

I am limiting these facts only to TV journalism and not all the programmes aired on Goan TV. That history could take us back to 1986, when a Programme Generating Facility of Doordarshan had started in 1986 and aired through terrestrial tower till date. The Goa DD was broadcasting a weekly news round up in those days, called Sarbhonvtonni (सरभोंवतणी) in those days. But a full-fledged daily evening news bulletin started recently, as a gift towards Golden Jubilee of Goa’s Liberation. The DD, unfortunately, is still functioning in Goa without satellite connectivity. Being a tiny state, no other organisation has a capacity to launch a satellite channel.

One such attempt was made in 2005, called Goa News, by the promoters of Jain TV. But neither the channel could succeed financially nor their motive behind coming to Goa.

The experiment through cable TV however started in 1996 by Ponda Cable Net, run by Sandeep Prabhudesai, almost a decade after DD, when private satellite news channels in regional languages had started reaching the households through the cable network that was spread all over Goa. The PCN started with Shigmo parade live. But it picked up when they covered Ponda municipal election with ward-wise problems and then the election results live straight from the counting centre. It then went on with interviews of SSC toppers from Ponda taluka and educational debates in a make-shift studio and even covering official National Day celebrations and important events live. But, again, it was not a daily news bulleting and was limited to Ponda taluka alone.

The credit, in such a situation, goes to veteran print-media journalist Waman Prabhu of Goanewsline, with the help of his journalism-trained daughter Shami Prabhu. 14th February 2002 thus should be recorded in the history of Goa, the day Goa’s first news capsule of 30 minutes was ‘aired’ through cable network.

This was followed by Darshan Lolayekar following the footsteps as Goa Plus, owned by an enthusiastic businessman Shamsundar Naik. Then came Goa 365, Goa’s first English news channel, started by Suhan Karkal and Kedar Dhume.  HCN by Herald Publications also joined the bandwagon, with English news.

They produced 30-minute news capsules on a DVD and distributed it to all the cable operators throughout the state. The cable operators simply intruded into any free-to-air channel and ran the DVD. Not a single customer complained since everyone was interested in ‘watching’ the news in action. In fact there were incidents of viewers fighting with the cable operators if a new DVD was not aired. Interestingly, they broadcast the same news at night what they had read in the morning newspapers.

It was a tiresome task to record the events, edit it, burn it on DVDs and transport it to the nook and corner of Goa, on hired motorcycles and even public transport buses. Unlike today where control rooms are centralised, the cable operators were spread out in the cities and even in the villages.

Suresh Kankonkar, yet another veteran print-media journalist, took a pioneering step at this juncture, while launching Prudent, owned by Goa’s miner Audhoot Timblo, on 2nd October 2006. No matter where the audio-visual signal comes from, it is reached out to the viewer from the cable operator’s control room through a modulator, assigned to each channel. Prudent started its independent channel, rather than intruding in another channel, by supplying a modulator and a DVD player to each and every cable operator. The DVDs supplied to them were run round-the-clock on this independent channel.

Prudent, in those days, was producing six bulletins, 3 each in the morning and evening - in Konkani, Marathi and English. The morning news was covered in the night bulletins while late evening events were covered in the morning bulletins. The morning bulletin was getting ready at around midnight and was dispatched to all the cable operators early morning. Our journalists and video editors were thus literally working round-the-clock.

But the revenue-manpower calculation did not match. Prudent had to discontinue its morning segment as well as Marathi bulletin. It shifted to a new module of 60-minute DVD, with one programme in between English and Konkani news bulletin, of 20 minutes each.

Till then, the experiment of a weekly programme was made through cable TV by Goa Plus. Dhiryo, a news-related debate I had started on 2nd October 2006, was aired on Sundays. Taking a step forward, Prudent started 20-minute programme every day.

There were also more city-based experiments made, like Goan Eye in Mapusa by Mathew Braganza and V Goan in Margao by Naidu. But they did not pick up due to lack of state-wide coverage. 

But this whole exercise gained momentum only after Goa’s channels were networked through optical fibre cable and running it centrally from the studio stationed in Panaji, through its centrally located playout system. To transfer the audio-visual signal, HCN tried using its site-to-site radio technology that was used to transfer its Herald newspaper pages from Panaji to Verna. By installing radio towers in few more places, techno-savvy Shamir Diniz of HCN successfully transferred audio-visual signals. They tried it once during IFFI in December 2006 and then launched it by May 2007. But the audio visual quality was very weak, due to which they had to shift to OFC technology.

Prudent, instead, opted for OFC technology by networking all the main control rooms of cable operators. Beato D’Mello, basically a cable operator from Old Goa, has played a major role in getting it networked. After testing signals for Panaji and the surrounding areas, Prudent was the first TV channel to network the whole state by May 2008.

I entered this channel on 18th June 2008, when the system of transporting DVDs had stopped. Instead, the DVD was run from the Panaji office. I had then a privilege of using a Live playout system to run pre-recorded Konkani and English news bulletins, a news scroll and even the Breaking News. This was obviously followed by running the news Live, with latest news. The similar trend was also followed by HCN.

Prudent thus proved to be a game changer. The system of showing yesterday’s news today stopped. I designed the funniest promo – Watch today’s news, today itself – as though TV is supposed to air yesterday’s news. The live news bulletin was an advantage to take the latest, even what happens 15 minutes before the bulletin goes on air. This was also followed by covering live news events.

The live events had its own charm when Prudent reported brutal attack on social activist Aires Rodrigues live at midnight. In fact live coverage of a spontaneous public meeting at Azad Maidan was sabotaged by cutting our cables. In retaliation, we then aired the whole public meeting repeatedly, instead of airing it only once as a live event.

The whole state was stunned watching live reportage by Prudent for two long hours from midnight when bomb blasts by Sanatan activists in Margao boomeranged on them. The live coverage of Canacona floods resulted into the border taluka getting flooded with all kind of relief, in cash and kind. Equally important has become now live coverage of state budget debates as well as election results and studio debates. The live news bulletins and special live bulletins of major events are as routine today as any other satellite channel.

The major breakthrough of Goan TV at national level however is the Live Assembly telecast of the whole session, just not one-hour Question Hour. 18th August 2008 thus needs to be remembered as a historic day when India’s first live telecast was made of the Assembly session. The initiative of Prudent was welcomed by Speaker Pratapsing Rane and was supported with equal enthusiasm by Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and Opposition Leader Manohar Parrikar. The performance of the elected representatives reached drawing rooms and the bedroom of each Goan household. It literally became a BIG HIT.

I must mention yet another unique experiment by In Goa, a TV channel initially started from Mapusa by Anil Laad and then shifted to Panaji. This channel does not follow the traditional system of half-an-hour news bulletins at fixed time. Rather, the channel runs any event – a press conference, morcha, function, lecture etc etc – full length, providing complete view of the event. News as it happens. With minor video cuts, the news events are aired at length rather than limiting it to 2-3 minutes. By creating this niche, In Goa has attracted a special viewership all over the state.

Goa now also has more news channels like RDX and Prime TV. The channels have also overcome the hurdle of not having satellite connectivity by launching websites and mobile Apps. There are also Apps like mstudio, which provide live streaming of these channels on your mobile smartphones. Mathew Lopes has played a major role in providing this facility and making the Goan channels available to the world viewership.

If the plan of the central government to connect the whole country through Optical Fibre Cable is complete, it could be the best viable solution to the costly satellite technology. Following Goa model, all the top channels of the country as well as the regional satellite channels could also shift to cable TVs.  Till today, we are a step behind the nation. But, tomorrow, the whole country could follow us. And Goa could be the leader of the technology, which we have struggled through.

This award of mine goes to all of them, who have struggled through to bring TV journalism at the stage where we are…

Blogger's Profile

Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of HCN and Prudent, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities.

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Previous Comments

First of all Congratulations to you Sandesh. Your modesty and humility while accepting this award should also be noted. Yes, an award is a recognition as you have said, and it is apt that you have been recognized and you in turn have recognized the all the pioneers of AV Journalism in Goa. While it is not always possible for juries of any kind to make a 100% correct decision, they have indeed chosen someone who also deserves this award just as the many others who have not.

Someone has to be recognized, so sit down in your 'balcao', bask in the glory of this award, and continue your 'dhirio' of good work 'सरभोंवतणी' in the field of AV journalism so Goenkaars can "Watch todays news, today itself' loaded 'Prudent(ly) with 'Prime' 'RDX'.!!!!!!!!!

Porbim

- Jaret de Silva, Chandor Goa | 20 th August 2016 03:13

 

Nice and informative piece on origins of TV Journalism in Goa. Its also a story of the participant, the writer himself. Congrats for the award and recognition Sandesh.

- Prabhakar Timble, Margao | 19 th August 2016 05:55

 

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