Major German broadcaster wooing Indians with lifestyle channel

By Robin Bansal

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) At a time when channels are cutting costs due to the economic slump, Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) has launched two channels in Asia, including an India-centric lifestyle channel.

"There's no perfect time to launch a channel whether it's recession or no recession. DW-TV was keen to focus on Asia and within Asia certain regions like India and so they decided to go ahead with the new channel DW-TV Asia+," Amrita Cheema, a spokersperson for DW-TV, told IANS in an interview.

The broadcaster also launched another channel, DW-TV Asia, for the German-speaking audiences in Asia. Both channels were launched March 24.

"DW is actually responding to a market demand and hunger for the programmes to be made available in English here and India has a large English-speaking audience. The DW-TV Asia+ channel is directed at Indians who are interested in European and international news in a more balanced way rather than purely news," said Cheema. She is the only Asian presenter in DW-TV and one of the main anchors of its flagship half-hour English news magazine programme "Journal".

DW-TV Asia+ has "18 hours of primetime English specifically for Indians" vis-a-vis its counterpart DW-TV Asia, which has 16 hours of German content, she said.

"Asia is a very key media market for DW. There is a lot happening between the two continents. Our research shows there is a great interest at the moment in Asia, specifically India, to find out more about what's happening there (Europe) because they (Indians) are doing business there.

"And we'll provide them a window to actually have a look into Europe. We are also looking at certain joint co-productions of programmes in India," said Cheema, who was in the capital to promote the channels.

The spokesperson said the channel would provide "a complete package that includes entertainment, lifestyle, research and documentaries".

It will have lifestyle programmes like "Euromax", "Drive it!", a programme dedicated to wheels, a business programme "Made in Germany", a science and technology programme, as well as on arts and culture titiled "Arts.21", she said.

Cheema said the India-centric channel will also stream six hours of German content from midnight to six in the morning for "viewers who would like to know about Europe and Germany in German".

DW, which came into existence as a broadcaster in 1953, is headquartered in Bonn and is funded by the German government from tax revenue. The channel DW-TV was launched in April 1992 and has been available in Asia since 1996.

But doesn't DW-TV face competition with the already existing international market leaders in news like BBC and CNN?

"We don't see BBC or CNN as competition because what we are offering is completely different. For every news channel there is a niche and we are looking at providing more than just news. So the target audience for us is quite different," she said.

Not many know that DW-TV switches every hour from German to English, with two hours of Spanish sub-streaming in the US. The broadcaster's Middle East channel DW-TV Arabia, however, switches between Arabic and English.

Asked if DW-TV Asia+ would likewise sub-stream Hindi content in India, Cheema said: "Not at the moment. There are no plans because the language for our target audience is English.

"We might think about it the moment we feel that we will serve a major need here," said Cheema.

An alumnus of St. Stephens College and Oxford University, Cheema is also a producer of the channel's various shows like "People and Politics", "European Journal" and "Made in Germany".

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