Monday, 10 February 2014

Expert panel in favour of Autonomous status for Prasar Bharti

Information and Broadcasting Ministry on 28, January, 2013 constituted an expert committee under the chairmanship of technocrate Sam Pitroda to review the functioning of Prasar Bharti and to recommend steps to transform it into a world-class public broadcasting service. The committee has submitted its report to ministry on 24th January 2014 with a number of recommendations for smooth functioning  of Prasar Bharti.  Recommendations of committee address the issues of financial and administrative autonomy of Prasar Bharti; new models of funding with accountability; use of technology in the digital and cable TV operations; archive of DD and AIR rich content; establishment of social media platforms; huma n resource management for talent and skillful infusion. Collective implementation of these recommendations can transform Prasar Bharti into a world-class public broadcasting service.
For granting administrative autonomy to Prasar Bharti, committee suggested that Government should amend the Prasar Bharti Act of 1990 and formed a Parliamentary Committee, as originally envisaged in the Prasar Bharati Act 1990, to ensure that Prasar Bharati discharges its duties in accordance with the provisions of the Act and government duties.
On the technology front, the committee suggested that the Government should expand the digital and cable TV operation to meet the obligation of public service broadcasting. The report further added that present Am radio system should also be digitized (subject to coast and availability of DRM receiver). However on investment in digitizing terrestrial operations, committee recommended selectiveness based on commercial viability. The report further suggested that, any further expansion of and investment in digital terrestrial telecast should be suitably evaluated after field reviews and assessment of developments in the telecom sector.
On the issues of financial autonomy, committee recommended that government should create funding model for Prasar Bharti. Under this model Prasar Bharti can generate fund through private investment, Government funding and internal resources. 
The committee also recommended that Prasar Bharti should have editorial independency. Whatever content they present should be genuine and should not favor any Government. 
Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said his ministry would “seriously, studiously and diligently” examine the recommendations.
Regarding social media platform, committee recommended that ministry should define and execute a social media strategy of Prasar Bharti. The committee also recommended for setting up of Prasar Bharti Content (PBC) as a third arm of the public service broadcaster, independent of Doordarshan and All India Radio.
The panel suggested that Prasar Bharti should switch over completely from terrestrial to satellite transmission. Doing so committee has observation that Prasar Bharti may save Rs 635 crore annually. Report further suggested that moving from terrestrial to satellite will not harm any requirement of the public broadcasting service, although it improves the overall customer experience of TV households on terrestrial and analogue cable.
Doordarshan (DD) which is one of the India largest television broadcasters with 33 channels consisting five pan-India channels, one international channel, 11 regional channels, 15 state networks, and one HD channel. This transmission set-up will allow DD to achieve national coverage, because on satellite transmission all the 33 channels are available on private cable and satellite companies. The committee also recommended that Doordarshan should make direct to home (DTH) signals as the primary mode of transmitting content. The committee also stated that the pubcaster should monetise all available assets as soon as possible to enhance funding. The committee suggested scaling up allocation of funds for content generation to 50 per cent of the total expenditure within a period of 57 years. It called for a review of all existing channels and content of Doordarshan and All India Radio. Based on their relevance, output and viability, sub-optimal utilisation of resources should be phased out.
Prasar Bharti was set up in 1997 under the Prasar Bharti Act of 1990 to function as a genuinely autonomous body, but Pitroda committee observed that the provision of Prasar Bharti Act of 1990 gave abundance power and authority to the government to intervene in the internal functioning of the organization. To come away with this evil committee recommended financial, functional and operational autonomy to Prasar Bharti which make it independent public service broadcaster, which neither work as mouthpiece of Government nor as being de pendent on market forces.


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