Prasar Bharati financial rejig awaits GoM nod

NEW DELHI: A group of ministers (GoM) looking into a possible financial restructuring of pubcaster Prasar Bharati to boost its revenue generation capacity has said no final decision has been taken on various options.

On Thursday, Prasar Bharati, which manages Doordarshan and All India Radio, made a presentation to the GoM highlighting its plus and negative points, including possible ways to augment revenue generation that is lagging far behind annual expenses incurred.

While confirming that a presentation was made to the GoM, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma told that it was made clear to him that the ministers would look into the issue before taking the package to the Cabinet for a final approval. Sarma added amongst the many options presented before the GoM were levying a one-time cess on TV and radio sets in the country and tapping the capital market.

These options, Sarma said, were in line with a report prepared by a panel, headed by information and broadcasting secretary, set up to look into the financial restructuring. The report is now being studied by the GoM.

Asked whether the GoM and then the government are likely to okay the financial restructuring of Prasar Bharati during his tenure, which ends 30 June 2006, Sarma replied in the negative, hinting that the issue is likely to take more time.

Amongst the options, as has been reported by last year, is also one that envisages the government holding equity in the pubcaster against assets, which will facilitate a capital restructuring of the financially beleaguered Prasar Bharati or Broadcasting Corporation of India.

A government official added that media reports on financial restructuring of Prasar Bharati were "premature."

In the meanwhile, reports on levying a cess on TV and radio sets to give a fillip to Prasar Bharati revenue has almost set the cat the pigeon with stiff opposition coming from consumer electronics manufacturers.

However, present I&B minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi's predecessor Jaipal Reddy had been against levying a cess on TV and radio sets. His justification: the cost of collecting this cess from all over the country would be more than the actual amount collected.

British broadcaster BBC is partly funded through this mode where Englanders pay a nominal amount at the time of buying of a TV or radio set. A recent proposal of the Tony Blair government to hike this amount has been widely resisted British citizens.

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