The government has decided to set up complete television centres in six divisional headquarters. A project on this initiative received nod of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council on March 14. The cities earmarked for these six new TV stations are Khulna, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Sylhet, Mymensingh and Barisal. The centres, complete with studios and other technical support, will be overseen by the Bangladesh Television (BTV) authorities. The overall planning, programme setting, recruitment of officials and other staff are likely to be carried out by the relevant ministries and departments. Apart from government financing, 71 per cent of the funds will come from a Chinese company.
The six regional TVs will be run both terrestrially and through satellite. Broadcast from these stations are scheduled to begin from December next year.
With the installation of relay stations, nearly the entire country is now under the network of telecasts from BTV Dhaka and Chittagong. In accordance with the government policy, the divisional TVs will be focused on regional issues. They range from promotion of culture aimed at grooming local talents, awareness-building on urgent issues and anti-militancy campaigns. Clean entertainment is expected to have a major place in the programmes. Educational and development-related matters customarily occupy large segments of the programme schedules followed by the country's government-run broadcasts --- be it radio or television. The six new TV stations, thus, may not be an exception. But they need to be thoroughly different, in order to justify their launch in the regions which are already fed by routine BTV telecasts. One is tempted at this point to bring to mind the ubiquitous presence of private TV channels. The new regional TVs are set to face two challenges. On one front, they must outshine the centrally broadcast BTV programmes; on the other, these stations can ignore the formidable presence of private channels at their peril. It matters little how much variety and colourfulness they can instill into their programmes. The omnipresent channels may keep haunting them. Given this critical situation, the healthy survival of the proposed stations depends on their ability to wean viewers off both central BTV and the private independent channels.
The six TV stations are set to highlight mainly local issues in their programmes. The regions' cultural and social activities will be attached prime emphasis in programme planning. But as part of government policy, the major thrust of these programmes will be on campaigns against militancy. That orientation towards healthy cultural activities could play a significant role in preventing youths from choosing the path of violent terrorism cannot be disputed. To achieve this goal, the special campaign-based programmes need to be planned with care. If necessary, sociologists and behavioural scientists could be consulted while formulating these TV campaigns.
The proposed TV stations will be equipped with their individual news units. As could be expected, their news bulletins will have a wide focus on local issues. The main BTV news and other national programmes will also be telecast. Initially, the duration of broadcasts will be 5 to 6 hours daily. It might be increased step by step. The concept of bringing the country's disparate regions, especially their unique realities and cultures, under the coverage of telecast is laudable. But arguments may arise owing to the essentially mono-cultural nature of this small country. The region-based telecasts could be justified only if they are planned in the context of the country's high population vis-à-vis demographic varieties. A major damper that may crop up is a common tendency: people always prefer everything that comes from the capital to those grown locally. The plight of regional newspapers is a glaring example. The new BTV stations can debunk this truth by becoming more appealing than those based in Dhaka.