PRASAR BHARTI NOT AUTONOMOUS?
The government has often claimed that the Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body.
Now the I&B minister has openly declared that the government cannot be expected to maintain "an arm's length" when it foots the bills for the pubcaster.
The minister was responding to criticism by Prasar Bharati (PB) Board chairperson Mrinal Pande who spoke of 'intricate circles of bureaucratic power' surrounding the institution. She also highlighted the 'systemic misalignments' in the 'hastily crafted' PB Act 2000, where the government picks the top 3 members of the PB executive, even though the Board is supposed to be supervising and managing the corporation's affairs. Much to its 'embarrassment', the Board learnt of certain PB-related issues from the next day's newspapers, she added.
"Two-thirds of the I&B ministry's budget - Rs. 18.85 billion out of Rs. 28 billion - goes to Prasar Bharati. I am the recruiting authority, the disciplinary authority, the sanctioning authority. Yet, I am supposed to have arm's length. I am not God," declared the I&B minister.
"If you want to take it out of the government's ambit, PB can be directly accountable to Parliament. This will then allow me to have another full spectrum communication agency which puts the government's viewpoint in the public space. Communication is a part of the development remit" he added.
The minister PB Chairperson were speaking at the inaugural session of a meeting of a recentlyconstituted Expert Committee to review PB's functioning headed by the Prime Minister's advisor on Public Information Infrastructure Sam Pitroda.
Incidentally, even the TRAI in its Dec 2012 recommendations said that measures should ensure functional independence and autonomy of Prasar Bharti. n