Prasar Bharati chief questions I&B ministry’s interference

Differences between Tewari and Sircar have plagued AIR and DD for some time now.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Published:September 29, 2013 2:41 am

In a six-page letter to Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari sent earlier this week,Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar has questioned the ministry’s interference in the affairs of the public service broadcaster — a statutory autonomous body.

While the immediate provocation for the letter,dated September 26,is the ministry’s bid to question the revamp of four Hindi channels of Doordarshan — Lucknow,Jaipur,Patna and Bhopal —— Sircar’s letter also mentions longstanding issues like the Prasar Bharati recruitment board,attrition in programme cadre and officials’ foreign tours.

Sircar also mentions the problems arising out of dual control of the news division and the “hounding out” from that department of Ajai Shukla. Shukla,one of the editors of DD’s news and current affairs programme prime band,had tendered his resignation after the ministry’s displeasure over the airing of BJP leader Tarun Vijay’s soundbyte.

Sircar has accused the ministry of attempting to “drive a wedge between CEO whole time members and the board as has been attempted recently through repeated superfluous questions as to whether the board has approved every minor executive action. The recent success of Prasar Bharati is all thanks to the full support it has received from the board… My earnest request to you is to please help us strengthen the public institutions of India and not to take part in their systematic erosion.”

Differences between Tewari and Sircar have plagued AIR and DD for some time now. The two reportedly did not even agree on using the public broadcaster for Bharat Nirman advertisements.

Sircar’s letter follows a letter from the ministry on the Prasar Bharati board’s approval for four “new” channels,after an attempt by Prasar Bharati to convert the channels,DD Lucknow,DD Jaipur,DD Patna and DD Bhopal,into 24-hour channels. “Is there any serious displeasure in the ministry that Prasar Bharati is reviving these four moribund kendras in the Hindi belt after decades of de facto inactivity and continuous drainage of the public exchequer,attempting sincerely to bridge the huge gap or annual loss of Rs 66 crore,trying to optimise utilisation of properties of 56,000 sq km valued at approximately Rs 418 crore,utilising 1,163 employees in these four stations when two studios each were telecasting for 2-3 hours a day,out of which more than half consisted of programmes made outside,and making better utilisation of seven expensive OB vans that are lethargically used for four-five days a year?” asks Sircar in his letter.

Tewari was not available for comments despite repeated attempts.

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