The standing committee of Parliament on information technology has pulled up the Prasar Bharati Corporation for its poor marketing efforts. The committee pointed out that the agency earned just Rs 11 crores revenue from its prime time slot of 7-9 pm on DD Metro in 1999, as compared to Rs 59 crores, paid by a foreign company (Kerry Packer’s Nine Network), in May 2000.
“The committee is perturbed to find that the marketing network of Prasar Bharati is so weak (as admitted by its CEO also) that during 1999, it could earn a revenue of just Rs 11 crores from the prime time slot, for which a foreign company (Australia’s Nine Network) has offered Rs 59 crores, which is 48 crores above the revenue earned by Prasar Bharati,” the panel has said in its latest report, tabled in the House recently.
The parliamentary panel has also pulled up the Prasar Bharati for the Nine Network deal where the foreign company was awarded the contract for another prime time slot (2100 hrs to 2200 hrs) after it emerged as the lone bidder, offering Rs 62 crores.
Prasar Bharati, in its submission to the panel, had said that it awarded the contract using the norms set by Central Public Works Department (CPWD) for such a situation where the price offered by the lone bidder was above the floor price.
The committee, however, said it was “at a loss to understand that a corporation like Prasar Bharati, entrusted with the responsibility of informing and enlightening the people inside and outside the country, should be guided by the rules adopted by CPWD when it comes to such sensitive issues like awarding of programmes.” Prasar Bharati should have made attempts to attract more competitors to ensure a fair and transparent action, it added.
The committee has also criticised Prasar Bharati on another count: Creating a situation where DD’s own programmes are cannibalising each other on the revenue front. When half-an-hour slots were allotted to individual producers on DD Metro, they resorted to selling the FCT (free commercial time) at cheaper rates, thus undercutting each other.
The parliamentary panel felt that the explanation of Prasar Bharati producers indulging in undercutting each other is not convincing and asked Prasar Bharati to make sure that there was no malpractice in marketing of the slots.
The chief executive officer of Prasar Bharati had said in a written reply to the committee that it was the basic weakness of the Doordarshan marketing system which had led to undercutting of the FCT rates