New Delhi: An increase in the strength of Indian Information Service (IIS) by more than double, creation of top-level posts, posting IIS officers in different ministries, new media wings — these are some of the recommendations made by a committee that is working on restructuring the IIS.
The 10-member Cadre Review and Restructuring Committee (CRRC) headed by Satyendra Prakash, the Director General of Bureau of Outreach Communication (BOC), will soon submit a comprehensive report detailing the recommendations to the government, ThePrint has learnt.
BOC is a media unit under the Information & Broadcasting Ministry.
Recruited through the civil services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, the IIS forms the backbone of the government’s communication and is a crucial link between the government and the media.
New media wings
The committee has recommended increasing the cadre strength to 2,244 from the current 971, given the government’s plan to expand its communication network.
It also recommended creating posts for IIS officers at the top hierarchy of the government, including two additional posts at the principal director general-level, four posts at the director general-level and 56 posts at the additional director general level.
The panel’s report also stated that 150 posts should be proposed for reserves, which is not there in the current IIS cadre structure even though it is mandatory according to guidelines of the Department of Personnel and Training.
Around 8 per cent of Group A cadre posts are reserved for training, probation, deputation and leave purposes, while in Group B segment, nearly 5 per cent of the posts are reserved for such purposes.
The committee has further recommended creating a wing by the name of the Directorate General of Media Research and Training (DGMRT). It stated that existing media units Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) and New Media Wing (NMW) should be merged and brought under DGMRT.
This new wing will be taking care of monitoring and analysis of media, social media, feedback, research, according to the report.
Currently, the EMMC is responsible for monitoring television channels to check if they are following programme and advertising code, and NMW looks after social media analysis.
Another wing has been proposed in the report — Directorate General of News. The report stated that it should come under public service broadcaster Prasar Bharati and will be in charge of news divisions of All India Radio (AIR)and Doordarshan (DD).
According to the report, both these wings — DGMRT and Directorate General of News — should be headed by a principal directorate general-level officer.
The report also recommended creation of another wing — Directorate General of Films — to be headed by a DG-rank officer for coordination of all film-related activities.
Digital push to reach out to population under 35
Aiming to reach out to more people aged below 35 years, who constitute two-thirds of the country’s population, the committee has advocated a greater digital push, saying the government should move on from its “frozen ways of communication”.
Quoting data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the report said the number of internet subscribers in India has gone up from about 40 million in 2007 to 665 million in June 2019, and that India has the world’s second largest internet user base.
Stating that digital communication has gained massive prominence in the last decade, with social media and Over-The -Top platforms growing leaps and bounds, the report said there should be an overhaul of the government communication apparatus through increased digitisation — such as a digitised platform for regular interaction among media departments and sharing of content among them regarding various outreach activities.
The committee also called for an integrated dashboard for media response analysis and feedback auditing, besides a ‘Virtual Knowledge Pool/Centre’ for sharing data on schemes and programmes of the central government.
Media content complaint redressal to be handled by IIS
The report recommended that the role of the Scrutiny Committee and the Inter-Ministerial Committee, which currently look at various media content-related complaints, to be delegated to a new wing — DG Content Complaint Redressal — which will function under the DGMRT.
It stated that this new wing under the DGMRT should also play the role of the Secretariat of the Committee for Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA) set up in BOC for looking into the advertisement content.
Renaming PIB, RNI
The report recommended renaming the Press Information Bureau (PIB) as the Directorate General of Media and Communication, and BOC as the Directorate General of Outreach and Communication.
It also said the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) should be renamed as the Directorate General of Registration and Licensing (DGRL) as the RNI’s role should be expanded to licensing of multiple-system operators, which own and operate cable TV systems.
Communication division in every ministry
The committee report said IIS officers should be posted to Prasar Bharati for a specific period where they will be treated as part of the organisation. At present, IIS officers are posted only to AIR and DD.
The report also stated IIS officers should be posted in ministries in a phased manner, and for that it recommended creating a communication division in every ministry.
Such a division in any ministry will be responsible for “conceptualising, framing, and executing 360-degree communication”, which includes print, TV, web/digital and inter-personal outreach as well.
The division will also handle media relations, “targeted public engagement”, advertising, social media and comprehensive feedback gathering.
The report also recommended posting IIS officers in the Cadre Control Wing of the I&B Ministry.
To facilitate integrated media campaigns by coordinating between all media organisations and advise the government on major policy matters, the committee also suggested setting an Indian Information Service Board or a Central Information and Communication Board on the lines of other services such as revenue, customs, railways and postal.
The report said the board may also handle the posting, transfer of Group ‘A’ and Group ‘B’ IIS officers and cadre management of IIS officers.
Talking to ThePrint, a senior IIS officer, however, said the committee should have suggested more radical changes.
“The report should have talked about a dedicated training academy for the service independent of the IIMC (Indian Institute of Mass Communication), the way other services like the IAS and IPS have,” he said.
“Also, IIS officers should be included in policy-level positions in the I&B ministry as that is their core domain, and be pulled out from news gathering roles at DD and AIR,” the officer added.
“Look at the MEA, where foreign service and forest service officers hold key positions. So why should IIS officers not be holding key portfolios in the I&B ministry, which deals with licensing and regulation of content, among others?” the officer asked.
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