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'We are autonomous,' Prasar Bharati rejects Ministry’s directives

Prasar Bharati Board objected to termination of all contract employees .

Prasar Bharati Board objected to termination of all contract employees .  

Chairman A. Surya Prakash and members of the Prasar Bharati Board, took “strong exception” to the “wording of a direction” to terminate the services of all contractual employees of Prasar Bharati.

Aggressively defending its autonomy, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has rejected a range of “directives” coming from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, saying they constituted “contempt” of the Prasar Bharati Act.

Chairman A. Surya Prakash and members of the Prasar Bharati Board, at their meeting on Thursday, took “strong exception” to the “wording of a direction” to terminate the services of all contractual employees of Prasar Bharati. A sizeable number of employees, both in Doordarshan and All India Radio, work on contract and sacking them without arranging for an alternative would lead to the collapse of both organisations, Prasar Bharati officials said.

The Ministry’s proposal to hire two senior journalists, Siddharth Zarabi and Abhijit Majumdar, was withdrawn as the board was not in favour of hiring media persons on exorbitant compensation packages, internal Board documents seen by The Hindu said. The Ministry had fixed an annual compensation of ₹1 crore for Mr. Zarabi and ₹75 lakh for Mr. Majumdar. The members argued that the highest compensation paid to contractual employees in Prasar Bharati was about ₹1.6 lakh a month and a jump to ₹1 crore a year cannot be justified.

‘Violation of provisions’

Another agenda item withdrawn during the board meeting was the appointment of a serving IAS officer as Member (Personnel) on the Prasar Bharati Board.

“The proposal mooted by the Ministry of I&B was dropped. The chairman and members took strong exception to the wording of the resolution. They also said provisions of the PB Act would be violated and the office of Vice-President would be denigrated,” the documents said. Under the rules, a committee led by the Vice-President has to recommend the person to be appointed as Member (Personnel) and Member (Finance), who have to be whole-time members and employees of Prasar Bharati.

“When section 6 (7) says whole-time members shall be employees of the corporation, how can anyone suggest that an in-service IAS officer be appointed member (personnel),” said the documents.

DD Free Dish

The board also objected to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s direction to stop all e-auction of channels on DD Free Dish. The directive will “wreck the finances of Prasar Bharati” and the Corporation stands to lose ₹300 crore, it said.

Doordarshan’s Free Dish service was inaugurated in 2004 with 33 channels. It now carries 104 television channels and 40 radio channels and reaches 20 million homes. It provides coverage throughout India, except Andaman and Nicobar islands, through a set top box for which no monthly subscription fee is required.

When DD Free Dish was started, the General Entertainment Channel slots were auctioned for ₹25 lakh a year. They now command ₹8.5 crore a year.

The Ministry also wants general entertainment channels to be replaced by channels run by Union Ministries.

The Prasar Bharati Board, however, has contended that it would make the bouquet uninteresting. The viewership of Doordarshan would “crash and Tata Sky and Zee Entertainment Dish TV will go laughing all the way to the Bank,” the documents stated.

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Printable version | Mar 25, 2020 8:57:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/prasar-bharati-rejects-ministrys-directives/article22765564.ece

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