New Delhi: In a first-of-its-kind occurrence, Public Broadcaster Prasar Bharati aggressively defended its autonomy and rejected a range of “directives” from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, saying they constituted “contempt” of the Prasar Bharati Act.
Chairman A. Surya Prakash and members of the Prasar Bharati Board, at their meeting on Thursday, took “strong exception” to the “wording of a direction” to terminate the services of all contractual employees of Prasar Bharati. A sizeable number of employees, both in Doordarshan and All India Radio, work on contract and sacking them without arranging for an alternative would lead to the collapse of both organisations, Prasar Bharati officials said.
The Ministry’s proposal to hire two senior journalists, Siddharth Zarabi and Abhijit Majumdar, was withdrawn, as the board was not in favour of hiring media persons on exorbitant compensation packages. The Ministry had fixed an annual compensation of Rs1 crore for Mr. Zarabi and Rs 75 lakh for Mr. Majumdar. The members argued that the highest compensation paid to contractual employees in Prasar Bharati was about ₹1.6 lakh a month and a jump to Rs 1 crore a year cannot be justified.
Another agenda item withdrawn during the board meeting was the appointment of a serving IAS officer as Member (Personnel) on the PrasarBharati Board citing the reasons that the provisions of the PB Act would be violated and the office of Vice-President would be denigrated. Under the rules, a committee led by the Vice-President has to recommend the person to be appointed as Member (Personnel) and Member (Finance), who have to be whole-time members and employees of PrasarBharati.
Moreover, Section 6 (7) says whole-time members shall be employees of the corporation, as per this rule, an in-service IAS officer cannot be appointed member (personnel).
To Proceed with DD FreeDish Auction:
The board also objected to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s direction to stop all e-auction of channels on DD Free Dish. The directive will “wreck the finances of PrasarBharati” and the Corporation stands to lose Rs300 crore.
Doordarshan’s Free Dish service was inaugurated in 2004 with 33 channels. It now carries 104 television channels and 40 radio channels and reaches 20 million homes. It provides coverage throughout India, except Andaman and Nicobar islands, through a set top box for which no monthly subscription fee is required.
When DD Free Dish was started, the General Entertainment Channel slots were auctioned for Rs 25 lakh a year. They now command Rs 8.5 crore a year.
The Ministry also wants general entertainment channels to be replaced by channels run by Union Ministries. However, ThePrasarBharati Board rejected the same contended that it would make the bouquet uninteresting. The viewership of Doordarshan would crash and Tata Sky and Dish TV will go laughing all the way to the Bank.
If PrasarBharati proceeds with the plan of auctioning the slots in DD FreeDish, it will severely affect the prospect of the private DTH Operators like Dish TV, Tatasky, Sun Direct etc…