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Parliamentary Committee to review Prasar Bharati working, wants feedback from govt

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NEW DELHI: The Parliamentary Standing Committee will review the working of Prasar Bharati ‘in due course’ particularly with regard to human resource and financial problems. The committee has also asked the pubcaster to apprise it of the action taken so far on the Sam Pitroda Committee recommendations.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, which also examines issues relating to Information and Broadcasting Ministry (MIB) has noted in its recent report that it is aware that the Government is also undertaking a study following responses received from various stakeholders to the Sam Pitroda Committee report being placed on the website of the Ministry.

The Committee noted that Prasar Bharati has been suffering from financial problems as well as human resource related issues ‘for the last so many years’.

The Sam Pitroda Committee had given its report in January 2014, the Standing Committee noted. Pitroda had submitted 26 recommendations in the areas of (i) Governance and Organisation, (ii) Funding, (iii) Human Resources, (iv) Content, (v) technology, (vi) Archiving, (vii) Social Media and (viii) Global Outreach.

The recommendations address issues of financial and administrative autonomy of Prasar Bharati to ensure that it is approximately positioned to execute its role as a genuine public broadcaster.

The Standing Committee also took note of the fact that the MIB had asked Prasar Bharati to prepare an action plan for undertaking certain reviews, studies and audits suggested by the Sam Pitroda Committee, which have a critical bearing on future action plan of the Government. 

The high-level committee under veteran technocrat Sam Pitroda had stressed the need for constituting a Parliamentary Committee as originally envisaged in the Prasar Bharati Act 1990 to ensure that the pubcaster discharges its duties in accordance with the provisions of the Act and Government defined duties.

It recommended reorganization of the pubcaster Board to make it a professionally managed body and make it more effective in guiding the organisation.

Noting that Prasar Bharati's vision must be to become a genuine 'public broadcaster' as against a 'government broadcaster,’ the report said there is need to effect complete transfer of ownership and management of assets and Human Resource to Prasar Bharati ‘to make the organization administratively and financially autonomous of Government.’

A Regulatory Body has to be set up to ensure public accountability of Prasar Bharati with respect to all content broadcast on its television and radio networks. The Regulatory Body should be a sub-committee of the Prasar Bharati Board.

Interestingly, the Committee has suggested setting up of Prasar Bharati Connect (PBC) as the third arm of the public service broadcaster, independent of Doordarshan and All India Radio, to expand the social media. PBC should be mandated to manage the various social media initiatives of all the wings of Prasar Bharati. It also wants Prasar Bharati’s social media strategy.

The Committee was set up in 28 January, 2013 and had decided to set up 11 working groups on different issues and has come out with a report on eight main areas: governance and organization, funding, human resource, content, technology, archiving, social media and global outreach.

The Committee suggests amending the 1990 Act where necessary so as to impart genuine and effective autonomy to the organization.

Referring to funding, the report said that there is need to undertake a professional study to develop a funding mechanism for Prasar Bharati that addresses the need for autonomy with financial accountability. Such a funding model should include government funding, internal resource mobilisation and private investment. There is need to monetise all available archival and other assets of Prasar Bharati as soon as possible to enhance funding, and augment funding of social messaging through cross-subsidising such content through entertainment-led programming and by co-opting industry through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) budgets.

Pitroda had said in reply to a question after submitting his report that the time of licensing TV or radio sets as was being done around five decades earlier could not be revived at it was an old concept.

Referring to Human Resource, he said the pubcaster should be enabled with the power to frame rules and regulations for its employees without seeking prior approval of the Government.

The committee said there was need to create an effective recruitment system to attract the best talent and allow the hiring of skilled professionals and encourage and initiate steps for absorption of Government employees as full-time employees of Prasar Bharati, after an appropriate screening process. The ones who remain in Government may be considered for absorption in other departments within the government as is done in other cases.

Referring to content, Pitroda stressed the need to scale up allocation of funds for content generation to 50 per cent of the total expenditure within a period of five - seven years. The Committee wants a review of all existing channels and content of DD and AIR, based on their relevance, output and viability and phase out those where there is sub-optimal utilisation of resources.

There should be encouragement of outsourcing of content creation to external producers to attract high quality and diverse programming and creation of distinct brand identities for different TV and radio channels, and define the content strategy for each.

Referring to Technology, the Committee wants expansion of the satellite and digital cable TV operations to meet the obligation of public service broadcasting. There is need to digitalise the present AM radio system to a new digital radio transmission after due evaluation subject to cost and availability of DRM receivers. In the transition period, FM may be expanded according to demand.

It stressed the need to selectively digitalize terrestrial TV operations based on commercial viability.

Any further expansion of and investment in digital terrestrial telecast should be suitably evaluated after field reviews and assessment of developments in the telecom sector, it said.

Interestingly, the Committee wanted involvement of the private sector to expand the broadcasting market with a view to effectively utilise the infrastructure being built by Prasar Bharati to enable faster growth in the receiver ecosystem.

On archives, it recommended state-of-the-art digital archives for consolidating and preserving DD and AIR's content: both existing as well as that being currently generated. There is expansion of scope to make it the National Audio-Visual Archives so as to consolidate and support all other government initiatives.

The Committee wants dedicated, multi-platform channels created for dissemination of Prasar Bharati's archival products: both open access and for monetization.

Referring to Global Outreach, it wanted the creation of a world-class broadcasting service benchmarked with the best in the world using next-generation opportunities, technologies, business models and strategies.

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