National public broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s board has decided to end subscriptions with news agencies Press Trust of India (PTI) and United News of India (UNI), sources said.
The decision was taken due to commercial considerations, and there were no “formal contracts” with these agencies since 2006, the sources added.
The move comes a few months after Prasar Bharati threatened to end its subscription soon after PTI interviewed the Chinese ambassador to India and the Chinese embassy published a truncated version of it on its website.
Top sources in Prasar Bharati told The Indian Express that the board approved the decision at its 163rd meeting on Thursday.
Soon after the meeting, Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati tweeted: “Thankful to the Prasar Bharati Board Members for several key decisions earlier today on new content development, resolving long pending commercial disputes, rationalising expenditure on news agencies and technology investments to better utilise satellite capacity.”
A senior Prasar Bharati official said that Prasar Bharati’s contracts with both PTI and UNI had ended in 2006, and since then they had not been renewed and the subscriptions were going on in an ad-hoc manner on pro-rata basis.
The official said that Prasar Bharati had been in contact with both agencies to discuss “fresh viable pricing” but nothing came of it.
Now, the official said, it has been decided that there will be a call for fresh proposals “for a digital subscription to English text and related multimedia services from all domestic news agencies” and that PTI and UNI can also participate.
Sources had mentioned that for its subscription of PTI for Doordarshan and All India Radio, Prasar Bharati has paid Rs 9.15 crore annually since 2013, but since 2017, it had been holding back about 25 per cent as it wanted to renegotiate the costs.
In June, Prasar Bharati wrote to PTI and called its “recent news coverage” detrimental to “national interest and undermining India’s territorial integrity”.
On July 7, the government had asked PTI to pay over Rs 84 crore for “breaches in the premises”, or alleged violations to terms of lease for the office land.
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