Friday, January 24, 2014

Govt panel recommends effective freedom for Prasar Bharati

Suggesting that Prasar Bharati is not really autonomous as it should be, a committee appointed by the govt has recommended amendment to the Act of 1990 to give effective freedom to the public broadcaster with administrative and financial powers.
The committee, headed by technocrat Sam Pitroda, suggested developing a funding mechanism for Prasar Bharati to address the need for autonomy with financial accountability.

It also sought to give the organisation the power to frame rules and regulations for its employees without requiring government approval as it recommended absorption of government employees as full-time staff of Prasar Bharati and hiring skilled professionals.
The report, presented to Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari in New Delhi on Friday, recommended "amending the Prasar Bharati Act 1990 where necessary so as to impart genuine and effective autonomy to the organisation."  It also called for reorganisation of the Prasar Bharati board to make it a professionally managed body effective in guiding the organisation.

Tewari said his ministry would seriously, studiously and diligently examine the recommendations.  "Enough discussions on these recommendation have taken place and I hope and we start implementing some of them if not all of them. We cannot wait for too long to start implementation," Pitroda told reporters while releasing the report on Friday.  The committee will have a meeting with the Ministry next week to discuss the report and take it ahead, he said.

In its report, the committee suggested complete transfer of ownership and management of assets and human resource to Prasar Bharati to make the organisation administratively and financially autonomous of government.

Significantly, it recommended setting up of a regulatory body to ensure public accountability of the organisation with respect to all content broadcast on its television and radio network.  It should be a sub-committee of the Prasar Bharati board, the committee said.

The Pitroda committee was the fourth one set up by the government last February to review the institutional frame work of Prasar Bharati, its relationship with government and its continuing role as a public broadcaster.
It made the recommendations based on the principle that the organisation's "vision must be to become a genuine public broascaster as against a government broadcaster" as it was supposed to be.

"We all agreed that the public broadcaster should look into the public interest and not necessarily at the government interest. Government interests are equally important, it should have flexibility to promote government interest either through separate budget but government should use this infrastructure partly and use other infrastructure," he said.  Batting for its global outreach, the panel suggested that Prasar Bharati should create a world-class broadcasting service benchmarked with the best in the world.

"We need to have a global player...we don't have Indian version of BBC. Today, there is no big source of dependable, reliable, credible news from India," Pitroda said while highlighting on this recommendation.  It also recommended monetising of all available archival and other assets of Prasar Bharati to enhance funding.  It further suggested "undertaking a professional study to develop a funding mechanism for Prasar Bharati that addresses the need for autonomy with financial accountability.

"Such a funding model should include government, internal resource mobilisation and private investment". At this, Pitroda made it clear that this particular recommendation does not mean privatisation of the organisation but it more about sharing resources. He also said the quantum of private investment has not been thought of as yet.

Turning to the issue of content, the committee sought scaling up the allocation of funds for content generation to 50 percent of the total expenditure within a period of 5-7 years and review of all existing channels and content of DD and AIR based on their relevance, output and viability.  The committee encouraged outsourcing of content creation to external producers to attract high quality and diverse programme and creation of a distinct brand identities for different TV and radio channels, defining the content strategy for each.

The committee also strongly batted for the use of social media by Prasar Bharati which can be implemented immediately and defining a social media strategy for the organisation.  It also called for setting up of a 'Prasar Bharati connect' as a third arm of the public service broadcaster independent of DD and AIR and mandate it to manage the various social media initiatives of the organisation.  The committee sought expansion of satellite and digital cable TV operations to meet the obligations of public service broadcasting.  It also pressed for digitalisation of the present AM radio system to a new radio transmission system after due evaluation, subject to cost and technical availabilities.

The committee further suggested greater involvement of the private sector to expand broadcasting market with a view to effectively utilise infrastructure being created by Prasar Bharati.  Focussing on archiving, it recommended setting up of a state-of-art digital archives for consolidating and preserving DD and AIR content.  Lastly, it called for creation of a dedicated, multi-platform channels for dissemination of Prasar Bharati's archival products.