New Delhi: Prasar Bharati is reviewing its contract with news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) in light of its controversial interview with Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong, sources in the public service broadcaster have told ThePrint.
PTI is one of the country’s largest and oldest news agencies. It has been under fire for the interview, which was published earlier this week. In the interview, Sun squarely blamed India for the ongoing border crisis in Ladakh and the violent face-off in Galwan Valley that killed 20 Indian soldiers.
According to sources in the broadcaster, the Prasar Bharati News Services (PBNS) wrote to PTI Saturday, stating that it is reviewing the need to continue their relationship in the wake of “recent news reports” that it alleged were detrimental to India’s national interest and may have undermined the country’s territorial integrity.
However, a final decision on the move is yet to be taken, the sources said.
Prasar Bharati, an officer of the broadcaster told ThePrint, pays the news agency over Rs 6.75 crore for an annual subscription.
Replying to a query from ThePrint, PTI confirmed that it had received a letter from Prasar Bharati. “We have received a letter from Prasar Bharati this afternoon. We are examining it and will respond in due course with the facts,” the news agency said.
In an earlier statement, PTI had defended the interview.
PTI had described the backlash as “unwarranted, unjustified and unfair”. “It is clear that the one-sided criticism of the PTI interview has been generated by the truncated version put out by the Chinese Embassy,” it added.
‘No longer tenable’
Prasar Bharati is the parent body of state-owned All India Radio and Doordarshan.
According to sources, in its letter to PTI, Prasar Bharati has noted that the news agency’s actions have been contrary to values that it upholds as a public service broadcaster, especially those listed under section 12 of the Prasar Bharati Act, 1990.
Thus, the broadcaster adds, it may no longer be tenable for Prasar Bharati to continue with PTI’s services.
Section 12 2 (a) of the Prasar Bharati Act mandates that the public service broadcaster, in the discharge of its functions, be guided by the objective of upholding the unity and integrity of the country.
The aforementioned senior Prasar Bharati officer told ThePrint that the broadcaster had raised “editorial lapses” committed by PTI earlier as well, saying they had flagged the alleged propagation of “wrong news” that harmed public interest.
“There have been several instances over the years. Some have been highlighted to them in meetings,” the officer said.
“Since 2016-2017, we have been trying to rationalise the over Rs 9 crore annual fees, but PTI has been rigid. We unilaterally reduced it by 25 per cent in 2017-2018,” the officer added.
Registered in 1947, PTI started functioning in 1949. The agency is run by a board of directors and its day-to-day administration is headed by a chief executive officer.
The officer also objected to the fact that the PTI board, which primarily comprises journalists and independent directors, doesn’t have a seat for Prasar Bharati despite the fact that “the largest funding to PTI” comes from the broadcaster.
“The board is basically private media houses running on substantial public money,” the officer said.
PTI has a huge domestic and foreign reach. According to PTI’s website, the agency employs more than 400 journalists and 500 stringers and puts out more than 2,000 stories and 200 photographs a day. PTI has exchange arrangements with several foreign news agencies to magnify its global news footprint, the website states.
This report has been updated with PTI’s statement