The board of Prasar Bharati refused to clear four directives from the ministry on various grounds.
New Delhi: Saying it was being “pressured” by the Information and Broadcasting ministry into taking decisions that it wasn’t comfortable with, the Prasar Bharati board Thursday rejected or refused to take a call on at least four directives from the ministry, including the hiring of two editors.
Among the key Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry recommendations that the board rejected, was the appointment of journalists Abhijit Majumder and Siddharth Zarabi as head of TV News (English, Hindi & International), DD News, and Chief Editor, Prasar Bharati News Service, respectively.
Despite a strong push by the I&B Ministry, board members didn’t clear the appointment of the two journalists on the ground that their appointment as the “high compensation” couldn’t be justified.
Sources said the members of the Prasar Bharati board had voiced concern over the growing interference by the ministry in its working, despite it being an autonomous body.
Sources said members of the Prasar Bharati board felt it was being “pressured” by the ministry to hire both the journalists at a compensation of Rs 1 crore per year for Zarabi, and Rs 75 lakh per year for Majumder. They pointed out at the meeting that the highest compensation paid to contractual staff in Prasar Bharati and Doordarshan was not more than Rs 1.6 lakh per month.
Incidentally, Majumder has been in the news for his recent tweets that were seen as being communally polarising. The Delhi Chief Minister’s office wrote to Majumder’s employers Thursday, seeking action against him for trying to give the Ankit Saxena murder case a communal twist.
His tweet, alleging the death of a second person in the Kasganj violence, was also incorrect and seen as a clear attempt to polarise. While he deleted the tweet later, Majumdar didn’t apologise for it.
Other proposals turned down by Prasar Bharati
During the meeting, Prasar Bharati chairman A. Surya Prakash and other members are also learnt to have strongly objected to an order issued by the ministry Tuesday, directing it to terminate the services of all contractual employees.
Sources said Prasar Bharti board members felt the direction should be withdrawn, as it would be a violation of the Prasar Bharati Act. They said that under the law the body isn’t a subordinate office of the ministry.
Another proposal pushed by the ministry to appoint an in-service IAS officer as the Member (Personnel) of the Prasar Bharati board was also withdrawn, since members unanimously felt it would violate the provisions of the Prasar Bharati Act.
Section 6(7) of the Act states that only full-time members of the board can be appointed as employees of the corporation. Section 4 of the Act states a committee headed by the Vice President of India has to recommend the person to be appointed for the post of Member (Personnel).
The board also took notice of the ministry’s direction to Prasar Bharati to stop the e-auction of DD Free Dish, which, they felt, could lead to a loss of Rs 300 crore to Prasar Bharati in this financial year. Such a decision, it was felt, would also adversely affect Doordarshan’s viewership.
The DD Free Dish was launched after a cabinet decision during NDA-I and is a good source of revenue for DD. However, some private direct-to-home service providers have been lobbying the government against allowing e-auctioning slots of to private channels and keeping the platform free-to-air.
Editor’s Note: The article was corrected to reflect the salaries proposed to be given to the two editors, as well as the designations. The error is regretted.