Responding to a detailed questionnaire sent by The Indian Express, seeking comments about the I&B Ministry’s analysis of Prasar Bharati’s performance, Prasar Bharati Chief Executive Officer Jawhar Sircar sought to put the ball back in the Ministry’s court, saying “if these are comments from a Review by the Ministry, why can’t the Ministry send them to us, rather than take it to the public domain, with their accompanying controversies?”
On Doordarshan’s falling viewership, Sircar cited a “note on BARC [Broadcast Audience Research Council]” that quoted BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta as saying that “presently BARC is releasing data of Urban markets with 1 lakh and above population. The less than 1 lakh urban and rural markets are yet to be released, which we are expecting to report in September”.
The same note quoted Sircar as saying “BARC does not cover 40% of the universe that is mainly rural. Once it covers whole of India, the result may be different”, and that “over the last 3 years, DD’s ‘Must Carry Channels’ have been systematically removed by many LCOs and MSOs from the prime band or from the top of the genre to obscure corners of the EPG/bouquet”.
“After we issued it [Prasar Bharati’s ‘Note on BARC’], we found that it was not 40% of the TV Viewership that is yet to be covered by BARC, but it may be over 60%, that is not covered. So, why this undisguised glee among Bhavan [Shastri Bhawan, that houses the I&B Ministry] babus and associates about “DD’s slide”?” Sircar asked.
“We have explained this to our Minister, Shri Jaitley, who has taken it with his characteristic maturity. Our people are ready to explain this to anyone else who has an open mind, and our Director on the BARC Board has raised some other issues, as well,” Sircar added.
The CEO said, “BBC’s annual grant is estimated at Rs 35,000 crores and some haggle for Rs 2,500 crores to pay for those they themselves recruited ! Grow up, please.
“Prasar Bharati earns its whole keep, unlike other foreign broadcasters, but it is good to hear that someone has understood that Prasar Bharati’s own costs are increasing. But, will someone give us permission to shut down some units to cut costs?”
Sircar said it was a “fact that our [Prasar’s] revenues are not as good as we try for, but unless there is good content, which requires funding support (that you have dried up), and DD is not knocked off TV screens with impunity, why do you go to the Press?”
He added that the I&B Ministry owed Prasar Bharati “some 400 crores of rupees that we paid on their behalf and if petty man-made objections are removed, we can produce content with our own “taken away” funds”.