ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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His Master’s Voice

Prasar Bharati is not even a pale imitation of a truly independent public broadcaster.

It is highly unlikely that the Narendra Modi government, or any other previous government, has genuinely wanted an independent and autonomous public broadcaster. Yet, every time there is even a slight difference of opinion between the so-called “public” broadcaster in India, Prasar Bharati, and the government, the issue of autonomy of the former is raised and discussed. A case in point is the recent stand-off between the Prasar Bharati board and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) over, amongst other matters, professional appointments that the board rejected. By asserting its right to decide on this, the board was merely settling a turf battle. When the ministry apparently held back release of funds for salaries of the employees of Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR), the board accused it of taking retaliatory measures. But as expected the matter died down, as it was nothing more than a family quarrel.

The concept of an autonomous public broadcasting corporation was born after the excesses of the Indira Gandhi-led Congress party government during the Emergency of 1975–77 when DD and AIR were used as blatant vehicles of government propaganda. The Janata Party government that came into power in 1977 constituted a committee under the chairmanship of veteran editor and journalist B G Verghese to work out how this could be done. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was considered a model for the kind of system India should adopt. On the Verghese Committee’s recommendations, the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act was formulated and passed in 1990. It took another seven years ­before Prasar Bharati was set up.

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Updated On : 6th Aug, 2018
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