Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar may have stated that he had no idea about Doordarshan’s live telecast of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s speech and that he learnt about it late Thursday night, but inquires made by The Sunday Express have revealed that senior officials had, in fact, brought up the matter during a meeting in Javadekar’s office on Thursday evening — a day before the telecast.
Top sources in Doordarshan and the I&B Ministry said the issue of the live broadcast came up during a discussion on Thursday evening, in the minister’s chamber in Shastri Bhawan where both Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar and Doodarshan’s Director General (News) Archana Datta were present along with some other senior officials.
According to sources, it was Datta who first brought up the issue, and Javadekar immediately gave the green signal. “The minister, in fact, told the two officials that he need not be asked repeatedly about the telecast and that Doordarshan should just go ahead and go live with the RSS chief’s speech,” said an official familiar with the sequence of events. It was following this verbal nod that Doordarshan decided to air Bhagwat’s speech live on Friday morning.
While confirming that a meeting did take place in Javadekar’s office on Thursday, Dutta said the issue of live coverage of Bhagwat’s speech was not discussed at all. “It was a meeting to discuss the upcoming Kisan channel,” she claimed.
Datta also denied that she was under any instructions from the minister to telecast the speech live. “We got inputs from our Nagpur correspondent about this RSS programme and decided to cover it. I strongly, and in no uncertain terms, want to say that I did not get any instructions from the minister or the Prasar Bharati CEO about this matter,” she said.
Sircar did not respond to calls or an SMS seeking his comments.
Asked whether it was under his instructions that Doordarshan decided to air Bhagwat’s hour-long speech live, Javadekar said, “It was under direct instructions of the previous UPA government that such events were not being telecast. There were absolutely no instructions from my side. They (Doordarshan) decide on their own and that is the correct way to do it.”
“Are you asking the same question to the private channels — as to why did they telecast it live?” Javadekar asked. When reminded that questions were being asked because of Doordarshan being a state-run public broadcaster, he said, “On one hand, there is talk of Prasar Bharati’s autonomy, and when Prasar Bharati acts independently, these kinds of questions are raised. How can both things go together? Doordarshan did the right thing.”
Javadekar also insisted that if private channels can decide to cover a programme depending upon its newsworthiness, Doordarshan cannot afford to lag behind. He said Bhagwat’s speech got very good viewership on the public broadcaster.
Meanwhile, sources said the RSS perceives this annual event to be a major catalyst in getting more people to enroll as members. “This annual Vijayadashami speech has been covered by private channels for years. How can an incumbent BJP-led government afford to not get it covered live, more so, when it knows the importance RSS attaches to it in terms of getting new people to join the Sangh,” said a source. “Also, no private channel has the kind of reach and penetration that Doordarshan has. So it was but natural for the government to get DD to cover the function live,” the source added.
“The fact that the PM himself tweeted about Bhagwat ji’s speech and even tweeted a link where the entire transcript of the speech was available speaks volumes of its importance. Already, both those tweets have been retweeted more than 2,700 times,” the source added.