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MP opposes Prasar Bharati move to monetise archival content; CEO says ‘misinterpreted’

Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar said there was no such decision. “A recently notified policy for syndicating content rights seems to have been misinterpreted,” he said.

Written by Divya A | New Delhi |
Updated: October 18, 2021 8:34:48 pm
Prasar BharatiPrasar Bharati's content includes a trove of historically significant footage, such as the constituent assembly debates and moments that were milestones for the country.

Prasar Bharati’s recent proposal to allow satellite TV channels and OTT platforms to purchase syndicated archival content has run into opposition. S Venkatesan, the CPI(M) parliamentarian from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Monday wrote to Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur, asking him to deter the public broadcaster from going ahead with the move.

Prasar Bharati’s content includes a trove of historically significant footage, such as the constituent assembly debates and moments that were milestones for the country.

“It is disgusting to note that monetisation has gone to the level of marketing historical treasures also. It may have (an) adverse impact on polity as well as peace and tranquility of this country,” he wrote in the letter. “Already efforts are there to rewrite history to suit the narrow political gains and distortions are also being attempted… Hence the involvement of corporate media by giving them access to archival contents is not a prudent step.”

Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar said there was no such decision. “A recently notified policy for syndicating content rights seems to have been misinterpreted,” he said.

Shekhar also quoted the policy document “for a correct understanding”.

The document says: “The TV channels as well as the new channels on OTT are continuously looking for good saleable content. This has created a demand for programme content of Prasar Bharati in India and overseas for the purpose of broadcast as well as streaming on Digital Platforms. There is a bright possibility for monetizing this content, which requires a proper and well-defined content syndication policy.”

An online portal shall be created for managing the life-cycle of the syndication — from registration and grant of rights to payment and content sharing.

In a notification dated October 8, Prasar Bharati said: “The policy will ensure that archival and premium content of Prasar Bharati is syndicated to third parties through an open and transparent mechanism of e-auction in order to fetch the maximum market value of content on demand basis.”

“Prasar Bharati, the Public Service Broadcaster in its mandate, has played a key role in modern times for preservation and promotion of Indian culture, history and values. This has been the key factor in content creation since inception. Prasar Bharati has accumulated rich and heritage content in its centralised repository at Archives as well as a number of Stations, Kendras located in all corners of the nation. News division of AIR & DD too have an illustrious recording of many important milestones of development of India,” it added.

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