Television

Sarma retires in June; govt. yet to move on replacement

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NEW DELHI: Indian pubcaster Prasar Bharati would soon be headless unless the government, too busy with other issues like reservation for backward classes in educational institutions, hurries up.

On 30 June 2006, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma retires after serving an over five-year term that can be easily termed a roller-coaster ride.

Following Sarma to the revolving door - sooner rather than later - is director-general of Doordarshan Navin Kumar whose term as a bureaucrat in Delhi ends in August. After that he has to revert to his parent state of Bihar.

Kumar was appointed as the DG of Doordarshan in February of 2005. Prasar Bharati, an autonomous organization, manages pubcasters DD and All India Radio.

While the CEO of Prasar Bharati is selected by a three-member panel headed by the vice-president of India, the DG is shortlisted by the board of Prasar Bharati that includes the chief executive and chairman.

The present chairman of Prasar Bharati, veteran journalist MV Kamath, was appointed during the tenure of previous government, headed by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.
Prasar Bharati sources said that apart from Sarma and Kumar, there were several other senior officials who are on their way out and would have to be replaced.

Meanwhile Sarma, a veteran of Prasar Bharati (he officiated as the DG of Doordarshan when he was a joint secretary in the I&B ministry in the mid to late 1990s) has seen over five ministers at the information and broadcasting ministry, which controls the purse strings for the publicly funded Prasar Bharati.

Despite allegations of nepotism during a time when DD used to outsource marketing of big events, including the money-spinning cricket matches involving India, a wily Sarma has come out unscathed.

It was during Sarma's tenure as the CEO that DD floated its subscription-free DTH service, which raced ahead of the country's first pay TV DTH service, Dish TV, in terms of subscribers.

For the financial year ended march 2006, for the first time Prasar Bharati clocked a gross revenue of Rs 12.38 billion with Doordarshan clocking Rs 9.68 billion and All India Radio 2.7 billion that signified a growth of 67.67 per cent.

Some of the achievements during Sarma's tenure included the following:

1. Increased focus on pro-active in house marketing of properties.
2. Successful execution of media campaigns on behalf of government departments.
3. Rationalization of rate cards to suit the changing market conditions.
4. A strategic shift from Sponsored Programmes to Self Financing Scheme.
5. Introduction of blockbuster Hindi Feature Films on DD National and marketing them in-house.
6. Leveraging AIR's vast network and unprecedented reach.
7. Narrowcasting programming strategy.
8. Publicity support for programmes to create awareness, especially among C & S audience.
9. Improved billing and housekeeping efforts.

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