With Gulf War in 1990 CNN ushered in the cable TV revolution, the private broadcasting industry came into existence and has since exploded into more than 90 channels. But at least one year before CNN entered in the satellite revolution the Act for pertaining to T.V. and Broadcasting institution, then termed as a historic legislation was passed by the parliament. But this could not come into force and was practically forgotten for 7 years. At that time Doordarshan (DD) was the only broadcaster in the country and autonomy was the main issue.
From September 15, 1997, thirty eight years after its beginning it does not exist. It has been merged with All India Radio (AIR). With the contribution of (DD) and AIR a new organization under the name and title of PRASAR BHARTI has been created. The new corporation is to be governed by a chairman and a Board of Directors to be selected by a three member selection committee comprising the chairman of the Press Council, the Vice-president of India and one nominee of the President of India.
The need for making AIR and DD autonomous was felt during the post emergency period when there was deep concern among the non-congress parties about freeing the air-waves. For the purpose a committee headed by senior journalist B.G. Verghese was set up by the then information and Broad-casting Minister, Shri L.K. Aadwani but the Government collapsed and the report become a waste paper.
But the need for autonomy was felt and again PRASAR BHARTI bill was put up in the parliament in 1990 by Shri p. Upendra, minister for Information and Broadcasting. After some amendments the bill was passed. But again the Government fell and the Bill again proved abortive.
But ultimately it was enforced through on ordinance which could not be ratified by the parliament. Now again it has been enforced by an ordinance with some modifications.
Let us now see whether the Act will really free DD and AIR. It depends upon how we define freedom. Although the Board will have only one government nominee but official interference will continue. The Parliament committee’s function is yet to be defined. Financial control will be in the hands of the Ministry. But it is believed that Prasar Bharti will prevent the Government from using the electronic media for its political aims. It will be an autonomous body just like BBC and will be responsible to the parliament.
Next question that arise is whether DD will be able to put up better programmes. According to the Act Prasar Bharati will itself determine its own destiny and will be free to commission its programmes without any fear, favor or prejudices. This is definitely a creative environment. The only hindrance in is way could be the parliamentary Committee which might force its likes and dislikes. Under the new set up it is expected that news broadcast & Prasar bharati will be more creative. But the independent functioning of Prasar Bharati will depend upon the degree of vigilance by the public.
The merger of the two institutions must be serious problem. AIR has 187 stations and 297 transmutes. DD had 19- channel network with 41 programme producing centers and 834 transmuting stations. According to the Minister of information and Broadcasting the employees have been given option either to stick to the ministry or to join the corporation. This is not an easy task. DD alone has more than 20,000 employees. This is a Herculean task and proper and timely decisions will have to be taken.
The Act might fall short of our expectations in some aspects’ but there is always room for adjustment and amendments. As and when differences arise, a solution is always there. Let us, therefore, hope that the advent of Prasar Bharati will prove to be a step forward towards the progress of our country and shall prove to be a torch bearer for the present and coming.