The Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act authorises broadcasting of paid commercials by All India Radio (AIR), the Madras High Court has said.

Dismissing in limine a public interest litigation petition seeking a declaration that broadcasting of paid commercials in AIR was illegal and unconstitutional, the First Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar said the statutory provisions made it abundantly clear that the Prasar Bharati Corporation, particularly its Board, was empowered to determine and levy fee and other service charges in respect of the advertisements. Hence, the petitioner’s contention that broadcasting of paid commercials was repugnant to the Act had no basis. In fact, Section 12 (7) authorised broadcasting of paid commercials.

The petitioner, R. Muthukrishnan, an advocate, said that instead of broadcasting towards its proclaimed objectives, AIR broadcast paid commercials by way of sponsored messages and advertisements of Ministries/Central Departments, public sector undertakings and commercial companies without any regard for the language of the radio programme and language of the paid commercials. The paid commercials were being broadcast only for the sponsors’ benefit. They were not for the common good of the people.

The Bench said broadcasting of any kind, including paid commercials, were covered under the Act.

The Prasar Bharati Corporation was formed with specific objectives with emphasis on upholding unity and integrity, nurturing the democratic and social values and projecting the varied cultural traditions of the country. The corporation was a body corporate having its headquarters in New Delhi and administered by the Prasar Bharati Board. Section 12 of the Act dealt with the corporation’s functions and powers.

The petitioner’s contention regarding the programmes/paid commercials in Hindi broadcast during news reading in English had no basis as English news was being read from New Delhi and not from the regional broadcasting stations, where State news was being broadcast.

English and Hindi news were being broadcast from New Delhi. Thus, the petitioner could not contend that in the course of the news programme in English there could not be any paid commercials in Hindi.

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