Jawhar Sircar elected VP in Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union against heavy odds

NEW DELHI: Prasar Bharati chief executive officer, Jawhar Sircar, was elected vice president of the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) in the ongoing convention and general assembly at Macau.

Interestingly, India had deputed a delegation of just two members and one advisor from the public broadcaster, against countries like Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea which had over 40 delegates while countries like Malaysia had 30, Sri Lanka had nine, Afghanistan eight, Bhutan five, Bangladesh and Mongolia seven each, Thailand had 35, Turkmenistan had 15, Kazakstan had six, and Singapore had 13 delegates.    

Defying all odds, Sircar won the election thanks to India’s emerging image heralded by conspicuous and bold initiatives of the government and the public broadcaster. 

India wanted to be a part of decision making in ABU of which it has been a founder member since 1964 with AIR and Doordarshan.

ABU has 264 members in 61 countries reaching a potential audience of 3.5 billion people providing a forum promoting collective interests of TV and radio internationally funded primarily by members. It remains the hub of harmonisation of technical broadcasting standards and systems, skill and technological development as also information exchange. It is the third largest of the eight global broadcasting unions, the representing largest geographic region in the world. Its Sports Department negotiates TV rights for major sporting events like Olympics and Asian Games,World Football Cup besides several other related activities.

Prasar Bharati has immense stakes in ABU as India's national public service broadcaster. Though Prasar Bharati pays Rs 50 lakh annual subscription, it had no representation in the general assembly held in Tokyo and lost the vacant seat of vice president to Pakistan in 2010.

Prasar Bharati sources also told that sports rights which were earlier offered to PB on exclusive basis were unbundled and given only 'free to air rights'  to accommodate ESPN, thus ending a long and continued spell of exclusivity. This was because there was no one from PB deputed at ABU when the Sports Group body was discussing acquisition of rights for Asian Games 2010.

India hosted ABU's General Assembly in 2011 after 15 years in a routine, officious and less-concerned mode with minimal participation and missing both the posts of vice presidency and a seat Membership on the Council.

Consequently, Sircar led a three-member contingent to Seoul general assembly in 2012 and got Doordarshan re-elected as Technical Bureau member and AIR to ABU Administrative Council unanimously. Being member of the Administrative Council, PB then became eligible for ABU vice president but was trounced by Turkey Radio And Television Corporation which had taken a delegation of 20 against India's two.

The source said PB had no chance at all when all the countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Macau and Hong Kong took 4 to 18 delegates to canvass and manage better deliverables. NHK Japan had 41 delegates, Korea 21 and China 22 in Hanoi General Assembly in 2013.

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