Media

Let Prasar Bharti be named as official broadcaster.

August 01, 2017 01:05 AM
Parsar Bharti

Anuradha Raman

It is time for Prasar Bharati to shed its pretence and become officially ‘sarkari’

The Prasar Bharati Corporation is neither fish nor fowl, as editorials and opinion articles have pointed out. This mix-up in identity is due to the peculiar existential crisis the corporation finds itself in. Called an autonomous corporation by an act passed in Parliament, it is so only in name as neither the employees — numbering around 27,000 — nor the government have wanted to let go of the ‘government’s premier broadcaster’ tag.

A ‘ sarkari ’ channel would leave the viewer under no illusion when it comes to the source of the news, its veracity and its presentation. A government channel would ensure that the Minister heading it would have the employees under her thumb.

A controversy surfaced again last week when media reports said that the corporation had issued an order to its news divisions asking them to subscribe to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-backed Hindustan Samachar news agency after terminating its long-standing subscriptions of PTI and UNI news services. This was subsequently denied.

‘No corporation’ movement

A talk with its employees will reveal that they don’t want the corporation tag any more. It doesn’t mean anything. At the very least, a ‘ sarkari ’ tag ensured a government accommodation. The orders were clear. The director general was the boss and his boss was the Information and Broadcasting Minister. Orders flowed from here to Mandi House which housed Doordarshan. Then came the corporation tag in 1997 and it has since then become difficult for the once-formidable All India Radio and Doordarshan to shake the label off. However, it has meant very little on the ground.

Doordarshan and Air

This is as good a time as any to debate whether the government needs a channel of its own. There are obstacles to that as recommendations from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) have ruled that State governments cannot have channels of their own. Hence, rules have been flouted as the clamour for a ‘ sarkari ’ channel only increases. In this day and time when most media houses are only too willing to do the government’s bidding, what will another channel achieve?

Greater role clarity

A ‘ sarkari ’ channel would leave the viewer under no illusion when it comes to the source of the news, its veracity and its presentation. A government channel would ensure that the Minister heading it would have the employees under her thumb. When in government, both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have had problems adjusting to the ‘autonomous corporation’ status, not knowing where to draw the line. Governments headed by both the parties have had senior Indian Information Service officers appointed to keep a close watch on news and other programmes even after Prasar Bharati was declared autonomous. Further, the CEOs at the helm so far have been bureaucrats.

Perhaps it’s time to drop the pretence of autonomy and restore the glory to the official broadcaster. Perhaps it’s time to bring back ‘Her Master’s Voice’ again.

Have something to say? Post your comment