Newly-appointed Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar has come out in support of the independence of Prasar Bharati, the national public service broadcaster.
Javadekar had earlier emphasised the importance of freedom of the press in his first media interaction while taking charge of the I&B Ministry.
On Tuesday, the minister said that for the government, the autonomy of Prasar Bharati, which is mandated by law, is paramount. “Our role is clear,” Javadekar said. “The autonomy of Prasar Bharati is important, it comes from law.”
Saying that the law had been brought after the Emergency, when the freedom of the press was stifled, Javadekar said that the law was made to protect the public service broadcaster. “Is liye bana ki ispe koi aanch na aaye (The law was made to protect it),” he said. “We also want that Prasar Bharati does its work well.”
The minister said that Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio and is attached to the I&B Ministry, should bring new policies and “logon ki badalti hui aadaton ko samet le (it captures the changing behaviour of the people)”. He also appreciated Prasar Bharati for expanding its footprint digitally and making its presence felt on digital platforms.
Though Javadekar has stressed on the importance of the public service broadcaster’s autonomy, Prasar Bharati officials have several times in the past complained of the government encroaching on its independence. Just before the Lok Sabha elections in April, the I&B Ministry had floated a draft Bill -withdrawn within a week – that would give the government the authority to directly make all senior appointments in Doordarshan and All India Radio as against the existing legal provision to establish a recruitment board.
Last year Smriti Irani, the cabinet rank minister who handled the I&B portfolio between 2017 and 2018, had been accused by senior Prasar Bharati officials of cutting off funds for the public broadcaster to pay the staff’s salaries.