“Cuts in Modi interview on DD made internally”

NEW DELHI: The Information and Broadcasting ministry has denied any knowledge of the fate of the interview conducted by Doordarshan of Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on the public broadcaster.

I& B secretary Bimal Julka told that the matter was not raised before the ministry and therefore, there was no question of any cuts or changes to the interview conducted by DD.

He said the ministry was not aware of the letter reported to have been written by Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar to board members where he is reported to have written that failure to give autonomy to the public broadcaster was the main reason for this.

In a letter to the board members, Sircar accepted that certain portions of the interview on DD were ‘apparently edited’. He wrote that he had received a large number of queries about this and blamed the entire episode on the ministry, saying the government can interfere in the form of transfer, appointment and punitive action against Prasar Bharati officials.

DD News director general also told that the decision to delete certain portions was taken internally and there was no interaction with the ministry in this regard. In fact, he said the ministry was not even aware of the interview until it was telecast.

Sircar said in the letter: “It appears that while portions critical of Doordarshan were telecast, certain comments on other personalities were apparently edited in the Modi interview telecast on 27 April,” he said.

He wrote that the board has taken several resolutions in the last two years, seeking more operational autonomy from the ministry, but without success. “In a way, therefore, the MIB lost the opportunity to convince a young minister (Manish Tewari) to break this long traditional linkage between the ministry and the News Division, which has continued unabated since PB was born and assigned its distinct role in 1997.”

Sircar noted that after the DD team got the interview with Modi, there were concerns that they had not yet managed a counter-interview with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. “I gave DG News the strength to go ahead and telecast the interview, even though there were concerns that a balancing interview from the other side could not be procured, despite best attempts of DD News,” Sircar said.

He said, “Another pertinent initiative of the PB Board to bring in external professionals met with some degree of success, but where the post of the director general of Doordarshan and AIR are concerned, it did not succeed.” 

“The Recruitment Rules still ensure that only government and quasi-government persons can occupy the post, which is pegged at approximately Rs 22 lakh per annum against sharply higher market rates. I have tried my best to explain that these need to be reviewed because times are changing, but I have not succeeded. If there had been some degree of fresh thinking in these two proposals, we may not have faced the type of public criticism that a single interview has invited,” he added.

Doordarshan had reportedly edited out some parts out of Modi’s interview where he had referred to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s Political Advisor Ahmed Patel.

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