For a long time the Indian opposition parties, have been loudly demanding an Autonomous broadcasting corporation and charging the government with the misuse of these powerful media of mass communication. It was forgotten that the ruling party has to convey its achievements, plans, and objectives, to the masses and also undo the campaign of misinformation and distortion that is unleashed by opposition from time to time.
The various parties that constituted the National Front government made the autonomy of T.V. and Radio an important item in their election manifestoes for the election to the IX Lok sabha held in November-December 1989. The ruling Congress government was criticized for missing these powerful media and it was said, that if elected to power, they will soon end this misuse and establish was said autonomous corporation to put an end to such misuse.
So soon after coming to the National Front Government into power, The parser Bharati Bill was drafted and tabled in the Lok Sabha in December,1989, so that it may be taken up for discussion and approval in the monsoon session. Let us first examine its provisions in detail and then see if they really make T.V. Radio autonomous.
It is proposed through the Bill to set up a single autonomous corporation (to be known as prasar Bharati Brodcasting Corporation of India) with two distinct wings- television and radio-to ensure its working in fair, objective creative manner. According to the Bill, the corporation will have a 10 member broadcasting council. The council will monitor the working of the corporation and hear complaints.
The Broadcasting Council will receive and consider complaints, and advise the corporation in the discharge of its functions. It also receives complaints from any person clamming to have been treated unjustly or unfairly, including unwarranted invasion of privacy, interpretation, distortion, lack of objective. The elected government may issue to the corporation directions it considers necessary in the interest of the security of the state or preservation of public order.
However, the long-awaited prasar bharati Act came into force on 15th sept.1997. Under the Act, the general super tendency, direction and management of the affairs of the corporation will be carried out by the Prasar Bharati board. The board would be appointed by a three-member selection committee comprising Vice President, chairman of the Press Council of India, and a Government nominee. The Directors general of AIR and DD will be ex-offices members. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry will nominate one representative, two representatives of the employees of the corporation, including one from the engineering staff, would also be on the board.
The Act stipulates that the chairman, who would be a part-time member would hold the office for six-year terms from the date he assumes charge, also the chairman or any member can be removed from office only by the President. However, the President can suspend from office the chairman or other members, except an ex-office member, in respect of whom a reference has been made to the Supreme Court.
The Broadcasting Corporation would appoint after consultation with the recruitment board, the new Director General of AIR and DD and other officers and employees. The board has been empowered to lay down the service condition for the employees of the corporation.
According to the Act the ‘primary duty of the corporation would be to organize and conduct public broadcasting services to inform, educate and entertain the public and to ensure a balanced development of broadcasting o radio and television. Through the Government have no control on the corporation, but “from time to times as and when occasion arises, issue to the corporation such directions as it may think necessary in the interest of the sovereignty of India or the security of the state or preservation of public order requiring it not to broadcast on a matter specified in the direction:’ the centre may also ask the corporation to furnish information that it considers necessary.
But to conclude, too much of buereautic control over the media is still feared. The new Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj is reviewing the Prasar Bharati Act and wants to make T.V and Radio fully autonomous in true sense of the word.