Days before he demits office, Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari has questioned the relevance of his ministry, saying it belongs to “an era that is past” and has “inherent redundancy”.
He also said the Films Division of the ministry has “outlived its utility”, and the film institutes the government runs in Pune and Kolkata would be better served through a public-private partnership.
With Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar openly criticising the ministry for what he called “shadowing” the public broadcaster in the wake of the controversial editing of Narendra Modi’s interview to Doordarshan, Tewari also suggested PB should be directly accountable to Parliament and “not through the ministry to Parliament”.
“In today’s time and age, you don’t need a ministry of information and broadcasting. It belongs to another time and era, an era that is past. If you look at the ministry, it has the information wing that is serviced by the PIB, the DAVP, Publications Division, Song & Drama Division, et al.
“In today’s age of communications, how efficacious are these structures is not only questionable but I think conclusively there is inherent redundancy,” the minister told The Indian Express.
But Tewari held the opposite view in November 2012, weeks after he was appointed to the ministry.
Asked at the Idea Exchange interaction of The Indian Express if there is a need for a ministry such as information and broadcasting, he had replied: “Look at the alternatives. You have a ministry of I&B, however archaic its structure might be, but which over a period of time, seems to have got the nuances fairly right. It is to a very large extent, hands-off. If you were to abolish the ministry, what would you replace it with? This whole bit of a regulator brings to mind a big brother spectre that I think is not a route we should be going down.
In an indirect rebuttal of Sircar’s allegations – made at the Idea Exchange interaction of this newspaper last week – that the issue of PB’s autonomy is a “polio child”, Tewari said his ministry exercises oversight over Prasar Bharati “essentially because the I&B Ministry is accountable to Parliament and to the cabinet for everything the Prasar Bharati does or doesn’t do. Every second question in Parliament over the past two decades relates to the functioning of Prasar Bharati”.
“First of all, a fundamental decision has to be taken whether India requires a public broadcaster or not. Prasar Bharati had been conceived when only Doordarshan was there. Now there are 1,798 private channels out of which 415 are news and current affair channels. And if you need a public broadcaster, what exactly should its focus be needs to be clearly defined.”
“As for autonomy, I have been advocating that the relationship between Prasar Bharati continued…