THE 68th Independence Day of India is going to stand out in the nation’s history. Narendra Modi will become the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India to speak from the historic Red Fort without leaning on the crutches of any other political party. India will witness, for the first time, on the ramparts of the Red Fort an independent, astute, down to earth and risen-from-the-ranks Prime Minister. This day will reinforce every Indian’s faith that a commoner can reach any height. After taking oath 80 days earlier as Prime Minister, Modi will break his silence in public. He is the principal votary of open communication and the social media. His website, narendramodi.in, is full of his activities in these two months. His ministers have opened Twitter accounts. Now the common man gets to know what his minister is doing today in his office. It has never happened before in India, that an External Affairs Minister visits Nepal and tweets about her meeting with the Prime Minister of that country. Ministers are communicating directly and instantly.
With the government’s need for communication in mind, this issue of gfiles is on the autonomy of Prasar Bharati which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio—the pivotal tools of communication of the government. Doordarshan and AIR have both failed in achieving their primary objective of communicating the government’s agenda. In fact, they are proving to be a liability. They have lost the pomp and majesty of a public broadcaster. There is passionate debate over how long the government can accommodate Prasar Bharati and whether it should not be rolled back. gfiles roped in four prominent writers to expose the hostile inner workings of Prasar Bharati. Poonam Dabas, after spending 26 years in Doordarshan, has written about the muddle within the organisation. Vinod Kapoor, who spent 31 years there, outlines the mess. K Subramanium provides an overview of the financial mismanagement and embezzlement. Gopinath Menon, a veteran in the field of advertising and marketing, explains why Prasar Bharati fails to market its product despite its reach across the length and breadth of India.
Three prominent Cabinet ministers of the Modi Government—Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad—had stated the BJP’s intention to roll back Prasar Bharati. Dabas writes, “One can hardly deny that there are few countries in the world which do not have television or radio channels of their own, and many even own news agencies and newspapers. Every major nation in the world has a public broadcaster and there must be some reason why they do have them. Then why have successive governments shied away from accepting the reality that there must be a state-run channel instead of pretending devolvement of autonomy.”
Neither has Prasar Bharati served the purpose of professional excellence nor has it achieved the objective of being a government broadcaster. It has only proved to be a white elephant maintained at the cost of the public. Why are we maintaining this edifice? Modi has to think, and think fast before vested interests cloud the issue. The nation of 120 crore people needs a government broadcaster and the government has to say it vociferously and unambiguously. I am of the firm opinion that India needs a government broadcaster without any sham of autonomy and should do away with Prasar Bharati as soon as possible.