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 Last modified on  Saturday December 18, 2010

     First uploaded on 03-05-2010


Importance  of Direct & Complete

 Funding  to AIR & DD.

By:Joseph Martin C.J

                  In a democratic country like India, media has to play an important role in the functioning of the democracy. A democracy can not be a true democracy unless all its citizens are well informed about the political, social and economic developments around them and able to form unbiased opinions   and able to take their own informed decisions freely and fairly in elections and other democratic practices of the country. Due to this reason only we often call media or press the fourth pillars of democracy or the fourth estate.

                Recently a prominent journalist of our time  and Magsasay  award winner P. Sainath while commenting on the degradation of media in recent times lamented that 4th Estate has become real estate now a days. Commercial media particularly commercial broadcasters of  our country reached such a pathetic condition that  all enlightened citizens of this great country  are more and more becoming aware  and started thinking about the adverse consequences it may have on  all spheres of  social sphere (life), and also to the democratic fabric of our country.

                If the recent developments (happenings) in the media are allowed to continue unchecked and unregulated we need to doubt  that, are we heading to an era of Corporate democracy instead of citizens democracy as visualized by the founders of the constitution of our country.

               Recently our Nation witnessed a series of discussions about the Paid news   culture as alleged by most of our political parties & other organizations in the last general elections. The editor’s guild of India condemned it. The   Hon’bl Vice president of India also criticised it. Some of the leaders of the National political parties even demanded EC to declare the paid news culture as electoral malpractices.

              For the better functioning of our democracy, the need and necessity of a National Media (in the sense it reaches to all citizens of this nation) not controlled by and independent of corporate and other market forces has become evident from the recent developments in the media world.

              Media involves huge capital expenditure and it needs capital for its operation and maintenance also  .It is quite natural that there will be motive of profit in any capital involved business. But there needs to be limit to the greed of our  media houses. We cant expect much good from the private  commercial broadcasters  which is controlled  by and dependent on the vested corporate and market forces to the ideal or better functioning  of our democracy and for its citizens.

             But the democratically elected government of this country is bound to give its citizens a National Media which t is not controlled by and not dependent on the greedy market and corporate forces. For any media organization to be effective in its functioning the source of its funding is very important.

                All India Radio and Doordarshan is in its cross roads considering the fact that the re - constituted  GOM has taken decisions regarding one of the most important  thing “ the funding pattern of Prasar Bharati and its  financial & capital restructuring .

                  In the pre –globalisation  era the biggest threat to the proper functioning media in general and All India  Radio and Doordarshan  in particular was political in nature .But  now that scenario changed drastically .Now the  real threat is from the greedy capitalist and market forces. In this changed scenario we need to consider the latest Group of Ministers (GOM) descision of financial & capital restructuring of All India  Radio and Doordarshan (Prasar Bharati) .The financial & capital restructuring of All India  Radio and Doordarshan there in the agenda of the previous GOM also. The Group of Ministers (GOM) on its meeting held on 31st August 2006  had discussed about issuing public shares of Rs.4800 Crores of PB to cover its losses.

                The newly constituted GOM held a meet on 16-04-2010. According to media reports the main agenda of that meet was to discuss about tapping the capital market and other financial institutions for generating funds on its own, for funding AIR & DD.The GOM meet held on 16-04-2010 has decided to cap the Center's annual financial support to Prasar Bharati at 50 per cent of its operating expenses, and to transfer all property and assets to its books at the cost they were originally acquired.

            “It will be for Prasar Bharati to fend for itself and raise the balance 50 per cent of operating expenses through internal and extra budgetary resources over the next five years,” an official told the press. The element of state financial support will be further curtailed after 2014-15, the official added. Finance Ministry officials present at the meeting said the decisions take effect from the current fiscal 2010-11 and will be reviewed after five years.

        On 09.03.2010,  Hon’ble Minister of State for I&B Shri. Mohan Jatua, tabled in the  Lok Sabha  the following statement ,  regarding  the details of income, expenditure and gap in income & expenditure of All India Radio & Doordarshan for the last four years  as under: (STARRED QUESTION NO .166 ANSWERED ON 09.03.2010 in the LOK SABHA  ,link to the statement .For our readers convenience  we are attaching the above said statement in the annexure of this article.

Financial Year Income Expenditure Gap Between Expenditure & Income
2006-07 983.05 1954.67 971.62
2007-08 1035.86 2057.92 1022.06
2008-09 1096.78 2518.88 1422.10
2009-10 1119.00 3098.00 1979.00

Amount in Crore of Rupees,For the year 2009-10 figures are provisional.

                It is evident that Prasar Bharati was not able to generate 50% of its operating expense in the last four financial years .In this scenario how and from where the   remaining money (Gap Between Expenditure & Income) will be raised?.

             The public broadcaster would now have to tap the capital market and other financial institutions for generating funds (funds for the Gap Between Expenditure & Income) ,since  it may not be possible  by All India  Radio and Doordarshan to generate the 50% of the operating expenses while maintaining the  programming quality and   dignity of the National & Public Service Broadcaster of a  democratic country.

           The decision of the GOM is  bound  to have a long-term  negative impact on the financial health of Prasar Bharati and its effective  functioning. If it is implemented the National broadcaster & Public Service Broadcaster of this democratic country may become a public limited company and will become, just a tool in the hands of market forces and the  immediate step may be disinvestment by government of India.  If shares of PB  floated in the market  , it will become a entity   solely  at the mercy of market   forces which will  defeat  the very fundamental  objective of the National & Public Service Broadcaster. It is a move totally against the interest of the entire Nation and its democracy, and against the genuine interest of the employees.      

                The funding pattern that existed in  All India  Radio and Doordarshan  changed in April 2000 as per the MOU signed by two IAS officers – the then secretary of MIB and the then CEO Prasar Bharati , (who was also holding the post of additional Secretary in I&B). Due to this MOU only the present funding pattern of grant in aid  and loan from GOI  came in Prasar Bharati. It is true that grant in aid  and loan from GOI   was there in section 17 of the act, But it needs to be understood clearly  that the main source of funding as per PB act was the so called License fee from television and radio set owners  and not  grant in aid  or loan from government of India.

             In 2007 the Group of Ministers (GOM) , headed by then Home Minister Shivraj Patil had considered the I&B ministry recommendation to charge license fee. But due to the strong opposition from finance ministry and from opposition parties and also from the Consumer Electronic and Appliances Manufacturers Association this recommendation of the I&B ministry had been rejected by the GOM. The I&B ministry then wanted a block payment from the government to make up for this loss (due to the never charged license fee), which may have helped the corporation to become financially self-reliant , just as the Memorandum of Understanding between Prasar Bharati and the ministry expected.

            Actually  there is no difference between funding of AIR & DD  by the license fee collected  and the direct funding by the government. License fee is directly collected from the television & radio  owners for a particular cause (for funding Public Broadcaster). But in the case of direct funding the money is from a common fund .But that common fund also is collected from us only, directly or indirectly, Both are taxpayers money only.

          One of the argument in favour of of license fee is  the concept that the direct funding may affect the independence and autonomy of the Public Broadcaster. The advocates of license fee think that the direct funding will make direct influence of the government . If that argument is to be believed how we can say that our constitutional bodies (eg. judiciary, Election Commission..etc.) are independent, because they are also directly  funded by the government. So The very argument that the direct funding by the government may  effect the independence and autonomy of an organaisation is a biased view only. Please read the  article License Fee and Direct funding of the Public Broadcaster. for more views in this subject.

                  Being the national media with vast reach, All India  Radio and Doordarshan have been playing a pivotal role as instruments of social and economic developments besides playing a great role in national integration and entertaining the people ,even in the border areas and in the remotest terrains.

                 Section 12-1 of the Prasar Bharati act says that it shall be the primary duty of the corporation to organize and conduct public service broadcasting services to inform ,educate ,and entertain the public and to ensure a balanced development of radio & television. Section 12.2 (b)  to 12.2(p) of the act defines the duties of Public Service Broadcaster and 12.2(a )defines the duties of the national broadcaster for upholding the unity and integrity of the country and the values enriched in the constitution.

                 It is a fact that most of the countries in the world are maintaining their National Broadcasters for protecting the interests of the respective countries. Going by the global trend in other democratic countries All India  Radio and Doordarshan, being the National & Public Service Broadcaster, need to be completely and directly funded by the government to discharge its duties as the National & Public Service Broadcaster.

                 In view of the multidimensional Socio – cultural  fabric of our nation , the age old broadcasting organizations All India  Radio and Doordarshan, which have discharged the duties towards the National Integration , preservation of art & culture  , socio-economic and agricultural development of the nation should not be left to the mercy of the market forces.

                 Successive governments of this country had allocated lakhs of cores of rupees to the social sector for the all round development of   the underprivileged, illiterates citizens majority of whom are living in the remote areas of our country where even electricity is not reached. Govt. needs a medium to propagate its developmental schemes, envisaged for the underprivileged, illiterate citizens of our nation . In fact All India  Radio and Doordarshan is the only medium government can be used effectively for this purposes, considering  All India  Radio and Doordarshan’s pan Indian presence.  In this sense, the AIR can be served as a bridge between the policy-makers and the people for whom the policies were framed

                   A democratic government should consider the National & Public Service Broadcaster in social sector only. Against this ideal concept the successive governments of this country  has  forced All India  Radio and Doordarshan to generate its own revenue  for its operations even  by neglecting the mandate given by the Parliament of this country  to All India  Radio and Doordarshan to inform educate & entertain the public. But it goes with out telling that while performing the noble duties of the National & Public Service Broadcaster of this democratic country, It will not be possible by All India  Radio and Doordarshan to generate its revenues just like a private commercial broadcaster.

                  A major section of employees who whole heartedly welcomed the formation of Prasar Bharati now demands for the repeal of the Prasar Bharati  act due to the main reason that Prasar Bharati is not financially viable in the present situation as it is proved beyond doubt. The apprehension of the above section of employee is confirmed by the fact that even the Prasar Bharati Corporation demanded for the  full government funding for All India  Radio and Doordarshan to enable them to perform their role as a public broadcaster & National broadcaster. The Prasar Bharati Board conveyed its views on this issue to the Parliamentary Consultative committee which held its meeting at New Delhi on Feb 19,2010. According to sources, the Prasar Bharati told the Parliamentary panel that if it is  made to depend on commercial programming for its funding, its mandate as public broadcaster would be affected. This should be an eye opener for those section of employees who demands for the complete implementation of Prasar Bharati Act with out considering its financial viability .

              But the employees demanding for the Repeal of the Prasar Bharati  act should not forget the fact that through this Act only All India  Radio and Doordarshan got the mandate of the parliament to inform ,  educate and entertain the public as Public Service Broadcaster and as National Broadcaster for upholding the unity and integrity of the country and the values enriched in the constitution of this country. But the capitalist & market forces influencing or controlling All India Radio and Doordarshan directly or indirectly will be the worst that can happen to All India  Radio and Doordarshan,than anything else.

              In both situations (AIR & DD under the direct control of the government or under Prasar Bharati) direct and completing funding of All India Radio and Doordarshan by the government is the pre-requisite for its effective functioning as a true Public Service Broadcaster and National Broadcaster of this largest democratic country in the world.

Annexure:1,Statement of the Hon’ble Minister of State for I&B Shri. Mohan Jatua regarding the details of income, expenditure and gap in income& expenditure of AIR & DD.

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