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Prasar Bharati may come under scrutiny

20-May-2004
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Prasar Bharati may come under scrutiny

Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati is likely to be among the foremost areas of attention for the new information and broadcasting minister. Sources close to the Left parties, though they’ll only support the government from outside, have indicated that several issues related to Prasar Bharati would be under scanner once the new set-up is in place.

When contacted, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma said: “I have no comment to make on the issue at this point of time.”

Prasar Bharati or the Broadcasting Corporation of India was established in 1997, to make Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR) autonomous, during the tenure of the then I&B minister S Jaipal Reddy. Seven years later, when Mr Reddy is expected to be part of the new government and is even among the names doing the rounds for the I&B minister, the very basis of Prasar Bharati is being questioned.

A source in Prasar Bharati told eFE that the corporation was set up with lofty objectives. It was meant to be on par with UK’s state broadcaster British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). But, over the years, it has been misused by various governments and grants are also getting slashed for it, he said.

Although things may not improve drastically for Prasar Bharati under the new government, there may be a move to get greater funds for the corporation, it is believed.

CPM leader Somnath Chatterji, who heads the Parliamentary Committee on information technology, which includes I&B, has been vocal on better management of Prasar Bharati. He’s not in favour of Prasar Bharati treading the middle path - neither autonomous, nor government-run.

Constitution of the Prasar Bharati board is yet another aspect that is likely to be looked into, said a government source. The board members with saffron leanings may get a hard look, he added.

But, it’s difficult to change the members of the board, in a direct manner, as they are appointed by a selection committee headed by the Vice-President of the country, and have “statutory protection.”

The current board includes Prasar Bharati chairman MV Kamath, CEO KS Sarma, Bhupen Hazarika, ML Mehta, Chitra Mudgal and DPS Lamba.

Doordarshan’s news channel, DD News, which was re-launched last year during the Assembly elections, is also likely to undergo scrutiny. Even as the outgoing I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad claims to have revived the news channel, editorial appointment for DD News may come under the scanner, government officials indicated.

The ongoing battle between the recently appointed contractual staff at DD News and the sidelined Indian Information Services (IIS) employees has already surfaced, ahead of the formation of the Congress-led government, it is learnt.

Among the various projects over which the government thinking could change include the Rs 500-crore North-East package for DD and AIR, a Prasar Bharati official anticipated.

The N-E project, which is yet to get the Cabinet approval, may be reviewed, he said.Prasar Bharati’s DTH is yet to be rolled out, but it already has the government nod.

So, even if the new government does not want the DTH project, it may not be able to shelve it, sources said.

Meanwhile, everyone wants to wait for the new minister. The policies will depend on who the new minister is, industry insiders said.

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