It was an acid test. The spectacular opening and the closing ceremony of the Asiad was the crucible, the country’s first Asia-wide telecast, in which the Government’s crash project on colour TV would be tested.If the disastrously amateurish coverage of the Trial Games in September was anything to go by,,It was an acid test. The spectacular opening and the closing ceremony of the Asiad was the crucible, the country’s first Asia-wide telecast, in which the Government’s crash project on colour TV would be tested.If the disastrously amateurish coverage of the Trial Games in September was anything to go by, it meant certain doom, said the critics. Could Doordarshan do it? They did, much to the disbelief of many, and with flying colours.Doordarshan opened a new chapter last month, by transmitting a daily average of eight hours of colour coverage for the duration of the just concluded Asian Games.The technical quality of the transmission – give or take a blurred image or an unsteady camera here and there – was closely matched by the unexpected efficiency of the presentation, with Doordarshan coming of age in colour as announcers and sports commentators handled masses of sports timings, records and tongue-twisting names with a proficiency unheard and unseen in India.Doordarshan’s surprisingly successful showing was only a part of the Asiad media story. At no other time have so many mediamen assembled in India for any event – 4,000 all told, including 2,000 Indian pressmen, radiomen and television people.There were about 350 TV and film crews from all over the world. Thirty countries, members of the Asian Pacific Broadcasting Union and the Arab State Broadcasting Union were receiving direct telecasts of the Games through Intelsat which was being fed for 22 hours every day.Colour transmission of the Games: Splendid achievementThe others were the usual crowd of representatives from news agencies, newspapers, journals and mass of photographers. But the most riveting attention was claimed by Doordarshan, and for once the viewers’ strident chorus of complaints seemed subdued.As millions of viewers all across the country sat glued to their television sets, in some areas there were over a hundred viewers to a set. Behind Doordarshan’s big-time debut was a massive hardware transfusion costing Rs 18 crore. Elements of Doordarshan’s upgrading programme were:advertisement20 new transmitters added to the existing 21, in Patna, Shillong, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Imphal, the Andaman Islands to name only a few;four outstation broadcasting (OB) vans to transmit in colour, bringing the total complement to nine, including five existing black-and-white ones;20 electronic news gathering (ENG) units;16 ENG edit machines; and23 one-inch video tape recorders (VTR’S).Besides the hardware, Doordarshan made equally intensive investments in software: 67 commentators were chosen specially for the Asiad and underwent intensive voice training in a crash course.Surajit Sen, veteran newscaster and commentator of All India Radio (AIR) who was controller of sports for Doordarshan during the Games, said: “We had to bring in BBC’s Denis Monger who gave them tremendous guidance.”The commentators performed very well, considering that their training was crammed into six to eight months and that the BBC itself takes nearly five years to train its commentators.Apart from the commentators, 400-odd producers were tutored by two expert television producers and media planners from West Germany: Horst Seifart and Claus Beissner were invited by the Government to whip the Doordarshan production team into shape.Although the results were acceptable, as Beissner said: “By going on crash courses like this one, they will not gain experience. They still have a long way to go before they are anywhere near acceptable standards of producing for the Olympic Games.”The technicians who handled the equipment were also given extensive training, both at home stations and sports centres as well as in studios and sports sites in Germany, England and Malaysia.Limited Goal: Looking back at the frenetic preparations, Doordarshan Director-General Shailendra Shankar mused: “I had no doubt we would rise to the occasion. In spite of initial hurdles, like the strike by our employees, it is a real achievement to have done-this all on our own.”Doordarshan’s limited goal to provide a simple and direct coverage of the Games seemed to have succeeded despite constant complaints of poor colour transmission, painful delays and interruptions, unsteady cameras, wobbly logos, embarrassingly executed animation sequences and amateurish interviews of gold medal winners.Besides feeding the domestic network, Doordarshan also directed transmission abroad, via Intelsat. The satellite was booked by the organisation for the duration of the Games although it was the countries receiving the telecast which were paying – Rs 8,500 for the first 10 minutes and Rs 330 for the subsequent one-minute transmissions.Most countries were taking the day’s highlights, while a few settled for events in which they were participating. Doordarshan also provided dubbing facilities. However, the foreign media had complaints about the way the Games were handled. Said Seifart: “People here have no sense of timing.advertisementThey tell us that they cannot start a particular game on time because they are waiting for some bigwig to come. Do they realise that it costs other countries a lot of money to book a satellite?” Said Tong Chul Choi, a reporter for the Korean Broadcasting Services: “Important events like swimming and athletics were scheduled at the same time. We had to decide last minute what to take and what to leave. Often adequate information was not available regarding events and timings.”But for Doordarshan there were accolades as well, not only from people in the country but also from abroad. Jean Roberts, a correspondent for Arab Times, a Kuwait-based English daily and one of the directors of Kuwait TV commented in the paper: “I have been in TV for over 20 years and I must appreciate what Doordarshan has done for the Asiad. The selection of programmes was well done and daily programmes splendidly produced.” Kuwait received more than one hour of transmission daily over the satellite during the Games.If there were brickbats for the handling of media at Asiad, they came from the print media. In spite of an enormous gearing up which involved the creation of 18 press centres, 2,000 seats in the Nehru Stadium press enclosure, 100 telex connections, 160 local teleprinter and 212 local telephones, the organisers were simply not able to distribute results quickly enough. Said Reuter correspondent Francis Daniel: “The result system was in a mess.It just wasn’t working and for the first few days of the games we received some results the day after the events took place.” At fault was a powerful Rs 3 crore computer used for the first time.An indication of the awesome task was reflected in the results that were computed after the Games finished. Over 1.500 overseas telephone calls were put through from the public telephones provided for the Asiad. About 1.000 telegrams were booked from the stadia and the Village out of which 300 were press telegrams.The Overseas Communication Service had heavy booking, for nearly 200 television and 346 radio programmes and handled over 2,000 overseas telex calls and nearly 1200 radio photo telegrams during the duration of the Games.In retrospect, however, the experience gained by the media facilities unit was invaluable, specially if it eventually turns out to be a dress rehearsal for the Afro-Asian Games next year and, if the Indian Government’s optimism does not prove unfounded, even the Olympics in 1992.