Not a mouthpiece

June 25, 2015 01:47 am | Updated November 16, 2021 02:28 pm IST

In the pecking order, Rajya Sabha TV nowhere figures in the TRP ratings. But if sobriety, objectivity and fairness count, sans the hyperventilation that passes for news these days, perhaps RSTV would be a shoo-in for the top slot. In many ways, the channel reflects the House of Elders. The detailed discussions on government policies, besides the telecast of Rajya Sabha proceedings on prime time, are its trademark. Yet, at one stroke the short-lived Twitter furore that ensued over its inadequate coverage of the celebration of International Yoga Day led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, managed not only to stoke pent-up communal feelings and ideological hatred against the Congress-appointed Vice-President Hamid Ansari who happens to be a Muslim, but also the channel he heads. The attack was on both. Fortunately, and this can happen only on >Twitter , corrective measures soon followed and the Vice-President received >overwhelming support . This, as the BJP sought to play down tweets from its national vice-president as unfortunate. The channel was dubbed leftist as opposed to, one presumes, right-wing channels. Both entertainment and news channels were asked by the government to make the International Yoga Day a success in terms of coverage, and they duly complied. >Rajya Sabha TV exercised its choice to buck the trend and refrained from going overboard. Having said that, it would not be entirely correct to blame the BJP for criticising RSTV. The channel has received its share of brickbats from the Congress-led UPA as well. At the height of the 2G scam and the furore over crony capitalism that plagued the UPA, RSTV kept its head and went about conducting discussions, inviting members of the ruling party as also those from the Opposition BJP.

As the framers of the Constitution envisaged the separation of powers among the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, the channels run by Parliament are accountable to Parliament and its members, not to the government of the day. Neither are they its mouthpieces. Yet, from time to time organs of the government encroach on one another’s domain. So it is here; the government thinks the channel must function as its mouthpiece. RSTV was in the news when allegations of overspending were hurled at it. A section of the media alleged that Rs.1,700 crore was spent on it in a period of four years, prompting some members to contemplate a privilege motion against the media outlets concerned. Finally, if the channel is criticised by the party in power, it can mean only one thing: the channel is not under its control. And it is the taxpayer’s money well-spent.

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