Govt rules out Prasar Bharati rollback, says pubcaster important for country

Govt rules out Prasar Bharati rollback, says pubcaster important for country

NEW DELHI: The Government today ruled out a rollback of the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act 1990 as it is playing an important role as a public service broadcaster.
Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting and External Affairs Anand Sharma said that it was clear that both All India Radio and Doordarshan stood out distinctly in terms of their roles when compared to private broadcasters.

He said it was ‘not appropriate to even react‘ to the demand of the National Federation of Akashvani and Doordarshan Employees seeking a total rollback.

Addressing a press meet here, he said the decision on the future of the 38,000-odd employees of Prasar Bharati had not been easy and had taken almost a decade.

In its meeting on 28 January, the Union Cabinet had decided that all central government employees recruited for Akashvani or Doordarshan until 5 October 2007 are to be deemed as on deputation with effect from April 2000 until their retirement, but without any deputation allowance. Employees recruited from 6 October 2007 will be deemed to be employees of the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) and subject to rules drawn up by the board of the public broadcaster.

Denying that this meant creating two sets of employees, Sharma said that less than 1000 persons had been employed after 5 October 2007. Prasar Bharati Chief Executive Officer B S Lalli who was present added that the public broadcaster would ensure that these employees were not discriminated against and would get all allowances possible.

Sharma said while no separate decision had been taken on the Indian Information Service officers presently deputed in Doordarshan News, he was in favour of the status quo continuing.

Meanwhile, he said the Cabinet decision would mean amendment of Section 11 of the Prasar Bharati Act which had given the Government a mandate to seek the option of the employees on whether they wanted to stay in the Government or wanted to become employees of the pubcaster. It will also necessitate some changes in 37A of the Central Government Pension Rules.

He said in answer to a question that Prasar Bharati would continue to get all possible support from the government as a public broadcaster. Information and broadcasting ministry (MIB) secretary Sushma Singh was also present at the press meet.

While welcoming the decision as a partial measure, NFADE Chairman Anil kumar had told yesterday that all past and future employees should have been deemed as government employees. Stressing that the main demand of the NFADE was that Prasar Bharati should be rolled back, he said the agitation would continue until all the employees became entitled to the same benefits available to government employees. A meeting of the NFADE would be held within the next day or two to decide the future course of action.

Though the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act was passed in June 1990, it was notified as a statutory corporation only from November 1997. Section 11 of the Act had given employees the option to decide whether they wanted to join the Corporation or go back to the government, but no action was taken as the rules for various categories of employees have not been drawn up in the past twelve years.

Prasar Bharati sources told that until April 2000, the employees had been deemed as full government employees and their status was changed to ‘deemed employees‘ from 1 April 2000. According to the decision taken by the Cabinet, the date of 5 October 2007 has been taken as the cut-off date as that was the date on which the Group of Ministers on Prasar Bharati had taken a decision in this regard.

Lalli said in reply to a question that the greatest problem that the pubcaster was facing at present was the shortage of manpower (at least 17,000 more personnel were needed), and the fact that recruitments had been virtually stopped for over a decade even as people continued to retire. He said the pubcaster was now working towards ‘right-sizing‘ and not ‘down-sizing‘ the employee strength.

However, he said this had neither affected the working of the pubcaster nor would have any effect on the coverage of the Commonwealth Games next year. "We have shown an improvement despite this and our revenues have been increasing," he added.

Asked why Prasar Bharati had failed to earn the way other channels were doing, he said ‘a public broadcaster cannot be driven to earn revenue beyond a point‘. The pubcaster was not meant to make programmes only to earn money.

He replied in answer to another question that what Prasar Bharati needed was greater functional autonomy.

Sharma, Singh and Lalli emphasized that they had examined a presentation of Prasar Bharati in a lengthy meeting on 29 January and would be coming out with more measures soon.

Singh said the Planning Commission had given an allocation of Rs 4.63 billion to the MIB during the current financial year for the Commonwealth Games, which was meant to cover not only the Commonwealth Youth Games which took place in October 2008, but also a Media Centre for the forthcoming Games next year, apart from the actual coverage.

Referring to the Plan allocations, she said the first two years had been years of consolidation and Doordarshan expected to receive more money in the third year.

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