New Delhi: State broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s net income has halved in the last three years, according to a parliamentary panel report, in which the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry cited reduced media spending and pro bono campaigns as reasons for the fall.
The Standing Committee on Information Technology report said the net IEBR generated by Prasar Bharati, including interest on term deposits, fell by 52 per cent — from Rs 1,581.53 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 759.8 crore in 2020-21 (data up to November 2020).
IEBR or Internal and Extra Budgetary Resources comprise funds raised by central public sector enterprises through profits, loans and equities.
Prasar Bharati has projected a target of Rs 1,480 crore as net IEBR for 2021-22.
In its report released Wednesday, the panel said the state broadcaster needs to make more efforts to monetise content available with the organisation in order to generate revenues.
This can include placing some popular Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR) programmes on OTT platforms or YouTube, charging private channels for sharing feed of national events, reducing pro bono campaigns as well as monetising old songs, records, speeches and exclusive footage of Prasar Bharati, among others.
Also read: Why RSTV and LSTV have been merged into one Sansad TV, and what new channel will look like
Why has the income gone down?
According to the report, the I&B ministry told the panel that the dip in Prasar Bharati’s IEBR was on account of a sharp decline in government spending, impacting DD and AIR’s revenue adversely, and on-request pro bono campaigns executed worth Rs 356 crore on DD and Rs 130 crore on AIR (for FY 2020-21).
The I&B ministry also said 27 ministries paid revenues during 2018-19. This number fell to 10 ministries during FY21. Moreover, the media budget from the ministries active reduced by 70 per cent since FY19.
The government media spending also shifted from conventional media to social media during Covid-19 pandemic, it said.
According to Prasar Bharati sources, an absence of license fee, as in the case of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), only added to the problem.
Impact of Covid pandemic
On the pandemic’s impact on the revenues of DD and AIR, the ministry told the panel that there has been a decline in earnings due to substantial fall in advertising on both the state-owned broadcasters by government departments and ministries, and also by the corporate clients.
The government and corporate clients drastically cut the media budgets, which impacted the revenue generation of Prasar Bharati, it said.
The ministry told the parliamentary panel that fresh content could not be produced for a few months across the network, which also impacted the advertising revenue. It also noted a marked shift from conventional linear viewing to non-linear viewing through OTT platforms, which impacted revenue generation.
Plans to raise revenue
The I&B ministry told the panel that there are plans to raise innovative content programming, limiting pro bono campaigns and hiring contractual middle management sales staff for pitching in new clients to meet revenue target for the next fiscal.
Other plans include enhancement of channel capacity of government-run satellite television provider DD FreeDish and increasing revenues from the archives.
Prasar Bharati’s unutilised IEBR is being invested in term deposits according to the broadcaster’s Investment of Money’s Rules, 2007 for meeting unforeseen expenses including future liabilities and contingencies, the ministry told the panel.
The current revenue streams for Prasar Bharati include the revenues from DD Free Dish — which is pegged at almost Rs 600 crore this year, advertising from government departments, ministries and the private sector, and revenue generation from its archives.
Also read: AIR’s Tibetan service off air since Dec, no fresh content on website and YouTube too
Can you imagine a Television Channel supposedly be creating content being run by a coterie of Technicians led by a CEO whose only interest is limited to pleasing the Bosses. The Channel has lost both public and purse.
People who have sacrificed their talent and youth for the organisation have been pushed to the margin and humiliated. We are bleeding from within.
Nice analysis by T Pandey. Actually this mismanagement of Prasar Bharati is being deliberately encouraged and patronised by few to pave way for auctioning this organisation. This will throw the institution into the hands of private players who have made mockery of broadcasting through their FM Channels. This will be a big national loss.
It’s a nice report. But some critical aspects which have not been missed are:
Precisely during the period the content generation decisions both in AIR and DD have completely been shifted from the hands of professionals to the hands of engineers and deputationists from all and sundry departments having no knowledge of content generation. Even the position of DG AIR is lying vacant and is being handled by a person who has no experience of radio and television and particularly content generation.
PBNS after investing huge amount of funds and recurring expenditure on footing large salary bills to non performers remains a non starter and hasn’t added a penny to the revenue whereas news is one area where others have increased their revenue earnings from.
Similarly, during the period, the free coverage given to PM or events relating to him have also increased by a hopping 465%
While the reason being cited for decline in revenue earnings is shown as less advertisement spending by government. Whereas the truth is inspite of this similar sharp decline is not seen in the revenue earnings of other channels. It is also in correct that there are no marketing professionals available at the higher and middle ranks and there is a need to hire at those levels as part of strategy to strengthen the revenue earnings. In actuality the marketing division of PB is hugely over staffed and many persons with right connections have been rehabilitated in the marketing division without any professional qualifications or experience by paying hefty monthly salaries without bringing commensurate revenue earnings.
The report should have taken these factors into account too.
Comments by Mr Pandey has lot of truth in it. But the situation is graver than one might imagine.
How professional would it be for non media government officials to manage the mammoth media of AIR& DD in the contemporary competitive environment? The past over twenty years of its handling by the corporation stands testimony. It would only be prudent for the Parliament to ask, what Prasar Bharati achieved as tangible in the over two decades of its management which the individual directorates of AIR & DD could not have achieved on its own. But please, that should be an honest and factual enquiry and not one cooked up with bloated figures based on speculation and simulation.
Comments are closed.