Friday, 9 October 2015

Sunil Arora the New I&B Secretary to don the Crown of Thorns

On 31 August 2015 Shri Sunil Arora, a 1980 batch Rajasthan cadre IAS officer, has assumed charge as Secretary in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB). Prior to this appointment, Arora was Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Government of India.
Arora has replaced Bimal Julka, who retired on 31 August 2015. Julka was given a farewell at a function organised by Press Information Bureau (PIB) officers on 27 August. A 1979 Madhya Pradesh batch officer, Julka had taken charge as MIB secretary on 1 July 2013 when Digitisation process was at its peak, second Phase just being closed and Ministry patting its own back. However, now after another two years, problems in implementation are coming to the fore, with neither transparency nor addressability, the two most important expectations from Digitisation having been achieved so far. Sunil Arora will have a tough time in understanding the ground situation and then taking appropriate action, which may not be to the liking of the Broadcasters who are lobbying hard with this government not to extend the Phase II deadline. Or else, it may lead to a never ending stalemate in the process.
Shri Arora has served in various capacities at both the Centre and State.  He served as Joint Secretary in Ministry of Civil Aviation during 1999- 2002 and CMD, Indian Airlines for five years. 
In Rajasthan, besides districts postings in Dholpur, Alwar, Nagaur and Jodhpur he was Secretary to the Chief Minister, Rajasthan during 1993- 1998 and Principal Secretary to CM (2005- 2008) and handled Information and Public Relations (IPR), Industries & Investment Departments. Arora’s appointment comes at a time when MIB is in the midst of several important activities including the mandatory digitization. Some of these are given below.

Although, it was easy for the Ministry to implement mandatory digitisation in Phase I & II cities, being already under the domination of the large MSOs, Phase III & IV is a big challenge for the Ministry. Wide spread area, lack of infrastructure, lack of interest by State Governments, very few registered MSOs and thousands of small cable networks pose a humongous task for the Ministry. Mr. Arora has to understand the process at the ground level and problems faced by the stakeholders thoroughly to be able to take remedial action to speed up the process. It may require amendment to some regulations to ensure a smooth and timely implementation.

10+2 AD CAP in TV channels
Although the law permits only 12 mnts of ads on TV channels in each hour, all channels except a few GEC are violating the law. Ministry is scared to touch the media, particularly the news channels as their support is very essential for the NDA government to be in power. The matter is pending in Delhi High Court for the last two years and the court and TRAI is keeping a track of ads all channels. If the Court rules in favour of the Public interest for which the limit to ads was fixed, it will be difficult for Ministry to implement the law.  As the I&B Minister, Arun Jaitley is also in favour of the broadcasters, the Secretary may have to get the law amended against the public interest.

FDI in Media
The Government plans to raise the FDI in distribution platforms from 74% to 100% and in news channels from 26% to 49%. Broadcasters have welcomed the move. However, it may mean the end of Indian companies in the business as the US companies like News Corp are ready to control the media market in the country merely on the strength of our population. Infact, Rupert Murdoch and his team had even met the PM during his visit to US last month.

The functioning of Prasar Bharati
Although the public broadcaster has been given its autonomy, government intervention has been observed in many decisions.  The government is trying to remotely control Prasar Bharati and a tussle between the CEO Prasar Bharati and the Ministry has been going since long. 

FM Radio Auction III
Auction of first batch of private FM Radio Phase III channels is over with a collection of Rs 263.97 crore in bid deposits. Ministry has to collect the balance amount from the successful bidders now.


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