NATIONAL

Cong. deplores move to start DD news channel

NEW DELHI OCT. 22. The Congress today deplored the Vajpayee Government's move to start a Doordarshan news channel ahead of the Assembly elections in five States and decided to approach the Election Commission requesting it to stop its launch.

Referring to its scheduled launch on November 3, the Congress said the channel was bound to become a vehicle of Government propaganda. "Worse, the Rs. 54-crore annual budget will come from public funds'', the party chief spokesperson, S. Jaipal Reddy, said.

Mr. Reddy said, in an earlier attempt, the BJP Government commissioned a similar channel that featured dull programmes, which came to be seen as sops for favoured journalists. The channel, he said, folded up when there was a hue and cry over it in Parliament.

"This latest attempt to launch a news channel is intended to serve two purposes: to dish out BJP propaganda in the run-up to the general elections next year and to woo journalists through commissioned programmes,'' he said.

On the other hand, he said, the Prasar Bharti's claims to autonomy had been "seriously compromised through brazen political interference'' and the "so-called'' public broadcast authority without financial independence had been reduced to a "pliable tool.''

The party said it viewed the development as a "blatant attempt'' to manipulate public opinion in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram where polls were due to be held in November-December.

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