Rajya Sabha TV will begin telecasts by May; it was reportedly mooted by Ansari

Four years after the Lok Sabha TV began operations, the Upper House is all set to have its own TV channel. Sources in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat said the Rajya Sabha TV would begin telecasts by May 2011.

While editorial hiring has just begun, the Rajya Sabha TV has the potential to be the country's only current affairs channel with a steady flow of funding that comes with neither corporate nor government influence. The added bonus would be that it will be run by media professionals, than by bureaucrats, and backed by some of the country's best known creative artists.

“Parliament does not represent government. Doordarshan, whether you like it or not, belongs to the government; to the ruling party in power. Parliament has the huge advantage of being truly free and fearless,” says Shyam Benegal, well-known filmmaker and Rajya Sabha MP who sits on the channel's content advisory committee.

“We do not represent any interests. No corporate interests either. Just the interests of the people of India,” he noted.

Market-rate salaries

Unlike private news channels, the Rajya Sabha TV will not be dependent on TRP ratings to ensure advertising revenue, or face pressure from owners' corporate interests. It will be funded by the House itself. The sources said the 100-odd people now being recruited are being offered market-rate salaries, while broadcast equipment was being acquired through global tenders.

The road map for the channel comprises exploiting this independent advantage with a creative offering of content on parliamentary affairs, news analysis and debate, as well as knowledge and information-based entertainment. Another source of content could come from the States. “As the Rajya Sabha is also the Council of States, we are looking to involve State Assemblies as well. But these are just preliminary plans,” said Mr. Benegal.

To start with, the channel expects to be on air between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., including five hours of original content plus repeats.

Besides telecasting Rajya Sabha sessions, programmes are being planned on the standing and select committees and their impact on real life issues. “For example, we could have a show on the Assurance Committee's deliberations on the Bhopal gas tragedy and supplement it with video and interviews from people in Bhopal,” said a channel source.

Documentaries and regular shows on education, culture, history and social issues are expected to be made in-house as well as outsourced.

Advisory committee

While the channel was reportedly mooted by Vice President Hamid Ansari and will be advised by a committee of MPs, the Rajya Sabha has decided that the channel would be staffed not by bureaucrats but professionals. Apart from Mr. Ansari's OSD (Officer on Special Duty) and former TV professional, Gurdeep Singh Sappal, who has been appointed chief executive of the channel, all other positions have been publicly advertised and are being filled through a relatively transparent procedure. Senior Hindi newspaper journalist Urmilesh has been selected as the executive editor.

The content advisory committee is being headed by Rajya Sabha vice-chairman K. Rehman Khan, and includes Rajya Sabha members known for their contributions to art, media and culture such as Mr. Benegal, Javed Akhtar, H.K. Dua, Chandan Mitra, Rajeev Shukla and Sitaram Yechury.

The channel's headquarters will be located in a former ministerial bungalow on Gurdwara Rakabganj Road, but some space in the Lok Sabha library building is also expected. All approvals, including an uplinking license, have already been obtained. Broadcast will begin by May, and may cover the end of the budget session, the sources said.

  • Shyam Benegal on the channel's content advisory committee
  • It will not be dependent on TRP ratings