Monday, 4 July, 2022
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Modi govt may turn DD and AIR into public sector firms, disband Prasar Bharati

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Move raises concerns of increased state interference. Centre to cite Prasar Bharati’s ‘inefficiency’ as the reason for its dissolution.

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is actively considering dissolving Prasar Bharati after 2019 while exploring possible models to run the two bodies under it — Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR) — including converting them into public sector companies.

The move raises concerns that DD and AIR could lose their autonomy in the future. Transforming the two bodies into PSUs will allow the government to have greater control over them, as against their current status, where they are technically autonomous bodies under the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990.

So far, the Information and Broadcasting ministry has held at least three meetings with officials of DD and AIR in this regard.

Highly-placed ministry sources said the ministry is keenly exploring the possibility of turning them into PSUs, where the central government will have the major stake while offering some degree of control to the states.

The government’s proposal is in line with the recommendations of a panel of secretaries which had, last year, called for terminating Prasar Bharati’s operations and turning AIR and DD into corporations.

The Information and Broadcasting ministry has said on several occasions that it will not fund Prasar Bharati beyond 2019. As of now, a major chunk of the ministry’s annual budget is allocated for Prasar Bharati.

Doordarshan currently runs 23 TV channels while AIR has 416 radio channels.

Prasar Bharati’s redundancy

The government is likely to justify its decision on the grounds that Prasar Bharati is no longer performing its role as a public service broadcaster.

“It has turned into a white elephant over the years, given its dependence on government grants, including for the salaries of the Prasar Bharati secretariat and all capital expenditure,” a ministry official said. “How can it ever function purely as a public service broadcaster if it has to depend on government funds?”

Sources also said that during the discussions between the ministry and Prasar Bharati officials, it was brought to the fore that while Prasar Bharati was conceived as an overarching body for DD and AIR to formulate broadcast policies and other finances and human resource-related issues, it is actually operating like the director general of the two bodies.

The government is also likely to cite against Prasar Bharati its inefficiency in handling old infrastructure, dwindling funds for programmes, a stagnated and non-motivated staff, vacancies across the country in key programme production positions and ad-hoc appointments of non-professionals on deputation and consultants in the over 20 years of its existence.

 “Even as the government is exploring models for the corporatisation of AIR and DD, it will have to take into account that they are public service broadcasters and do not have the primary motive of generating profits,” an official said.

Sources said that at the meetings, officials deliberated upon importing the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) model, which involves levying a license fee on everyone having a connection.

The Centre, however, is not keen on levying a license fee on the audiences of AIR and DD and hence has indicated that the model will not work, ThePrint has learnt. Countries such as Japan and Germany follow a similar model for their public service broadcasting.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. I am an employee of Doordarshan with 30years service in the organisation. Regret to state that the way it is being run by a group of salesmen is disheartening. Recently a group of employees were granted IAS parity resulting in huge drain to the Exchequer. Both DD &AIR are losing relevance due to gross mismanagement and lack of integrity.

  2. Engineering and programme cadres in AIR & DD have reaped the benefits in the name of Prasar Bharati by virtue of upgraded pay scales, higher pay with dwindling work or no work at all, and the real loosers are those who have entered the department after qualifying competitive exams of Staff Selection Commission, the real stagnation is for them, no promotions and no pay hikes matching the other cadres with added curse of heavy work load, the real loosers, Kudos to Prasar Bharati for demotivating the deserving

  3. There are reports that PB is shutting down its all ground based transmitters , they have already closed some of them. If this is true than government should immediately stop all the support as it is supposed for that only.

  4. Let me add…
    1.No mention of the News Wing. Who will govern the N&CA as well as NSD. Very quiet on these. Dare PB to take a call. 2. Expecting an Orange Marmalade by replacing oranges with grapes just because they are fruits. 3. BBC model is not adaptable to Asian countries because we think better than Europeans and our diversity is like nowhere in the world. 4. Sam Pitroda recommendations have done enough homework and has come up with workable ideas. Why is it not being referred to ? 5.In all these years of PB existence, the outside army of officials on deputation have brought their own interpretation of dealing with issues in AIR and DD and no one yet got a clue as to what to do with a gaping hole in programme staff strength. 6. The PB policies show no passion and innovation as far as media organisation is concerned neither they can deliver results.

  5. There are a lot of delicious curiosities in this report (supposing it is all that precise and true!).
    Here are they listed, with some comments from a tired and drained out programme guy!
    1. “Transforming the two bodies into PSUs will allow the government to have greater control over them” :
    as if the government now does not have any real control over them!
    2. “ a major chunk of the ministry’s annual budget is allocated for Prasar Bharati” :
    Why should that be so worrisome? They are huge, huge organisations, aren’t they?
    3. “The government is likely to justify its decision on the grounds that Prasar Bharati is no longer performing its role as a public service broadcaster.” :
    It might very well do so. But let them first try to define what is that public broadcasting which they expected from PB. And if PB has failed so utterly-butterly-miserably, why did it happen so since PB was given no other mandate or role. What prevented it from being what it was defined to be. Try answering that, and a long exasperating story will roll out!
    4. “ “It has turned into a white elephant over the years, given its dependence on government grants, including for the salaries of the Prasar Bharati secretariat and all capital expenditure,” a ministry official said. “How can it ever function purely as a public service broadcaster if it has to depend on government funds?” :
    When they said in the original PB draft act and in a couple of later reviews that PB shall become eventually reasonably self-reliant, they also listed a host of things to be done to enable it to become so. Which government ever bothered to take cognizance of those recommendations?
    5. “it was brought to the fore that while Prasar Bharati was conceived as an overarching body for DD and AIR to formulate broadcast policies and other finances and human resource-related issues, it is actually operating like the director general of the two bodies.” :
    Well, if they saw through this terrific anomaly, why didn’t they do anything to stop it in over two decades?
    6. “The government is also likely to cite against Prasar Bharati its inefficiency in handling old infrastructure, dwindling funds for programmes, a stagnated and non-motivated staff, vacancies across the country in key programme production positions and ad-hoc appointments of non-professionals on deputation and consultants in the over 20 years of its existence.” :
    So PRASAR BHARATI, whoever is implied by that, is the culprit and nobody else! WE, the programme staff have been saying the same things but not in exactly this way! Leaving that bleak history apart, if somebody has the resolve to right the wrongs done to us, put the best people among us in the right positions, build up the ruined programme cadre, put in place sound operating principles, you will jolly well see how much will change how soon! But we have been talking about many other culprits and factors! Or we can tell you now. Don’t overlook them while you corner PB and its head honchos so comprehensively!
    7. “the government is exploring models for the corporatisation of AIR and DD” :
    Now by definition and incorporation, PB is a corporation. An autonomous corporation. It is insinuated now that PB has neither been able to become a corporation nor become autonomous. So AIR and DD have lost it both ways and their earlier selves too!
    And, PB has been responsible for resolutely ruining AIR and DD!! My god, but how came this state of affairs! And why it has been so glaringly discovered only now, two decades after PB was declared operational in tearing hurry in 1997.
    8. “it will have to take into account that they are public service broadcasters and do not have the primary motive of generating profits” :
    You are so generous! So we are supposed do public broadcasting whether under this non-corporation or the next would-be-corporation. And generating profits cannot be the prime motive of these two organisations. Thanks a lot! Now please, clarify once for all why it must be so! And if you are clear about it, and somewhat clear about what is truly good public broadcasting, please also go on to elucidate how and to what degree AIR and DD should be provided for, with funds, with great programme talent, creative production facilities and so on, given their vast and complex range of operations, so that they ‘can’ deliver what they are supposed to do! You don’t provide for it, you don’t get it! It’s a national issue, a cultural issue of utmost importance, dear sirs!
    9. “ officials deliberated upon importing the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) model, which involves levying a license fee on everyone having a connection. The Centre, however, is not keen on levying a license fee on the audiences of AIR and DD and hence has indicated that the model will not work…” :
    We would love to endorse such deliberations and conclusions wholeheartedly. We are not sure, if you want to turn the clock back and make AIR and DD departments of government again. Because you seem to understand and have a feel for public broadcasting. Something like the BBC, and such other such hallowed entities! If so, you will have to create a dependable source of funding to match the public broadcasting needs of our great, vast and diverse nation! But please don’t say that they have to be run on the models of private broadcasting organizations and that they should become totally self-sustaining. Nowhere in the world is public broadcasting run like that. And good public broadcasters have to be autonomous! Please take the challenge!
    It has to be realized once for all who has failed whom and how!(from AIR programme professional)

  6. Please don’t levy a licence fee on all of us, feel free to do whatever it is you wish with Pravada and Izvestia. It must be decades since All India Radio and Doordarshan were part of our lives.

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