Regulators

Jaipal Reddy calls for doing away with MIB

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MUMBAI: Junk the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB). That’s the call that once MIB minister Jaipal Reddy - who held the portfolio during the Congress I regime in the previous decade - is giving these days. Writing a column in The Hindu last week, he said “It is important to note that no advanced democracy, be it in western Europe or in North America, has a ministry called I&B. Those democracies instead have independent commissions. In the US, for example, the Federal Communications Commission has been effective in regulating the functions of television companies for more than a half a century.”

Reddy points out in the column that “Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel briefly handled the home ministry after India attained independence, and he also handled the MIB. He used the MIB portfolio to reach out to the people with urgent messages during the country’s formative and most difficult period.”

He highlights that the “the political demand for conferring autonomy of DD gained volume only in the 1970s, because of which the BG Verghese Committee went into the question and submitted its recommendations. But it assumed the shape of a specific statute only in 1990 when leaders from all parties, including Rajiv Gandhi as the opposition leader, reached a consensus. It fell on me as the I&B minister in 1997 to notify the Act — the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990. At that time, I made a public statement that the time had come for abolishing the I&B Ministry.”

According to Reddy, Prasar Bharati can truly enjoy independence when it is given financial independence. Says he in the column: “The BBC enjoys financial autonomy as the citizens pay fees compulsorily and directly to it. As a consequence of this freedom, the BBC sometimes takes on the British Prime Minister as well, not to speak of the government.”

So why garbage the ministry? Reddy has his reasoning. Says he: If a minister is there for the portfolio, he/she cannot sit idle; they poke their nose into the functioning of such institutions by way of self-employment. Hence, the urgency to abolish this portfolio.”

There’s nothing really new about his yelling about this from the rooftops – he’s done it in the past too - as he mentions in his column. He was instrumental in the drafting of the Broadcasting Regulatory Authority of India Bill in 1998. Nothing came of it then. Will someone in the Modi government listen to him this time?

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