Indian pubcaster Doordarshan, which claims to be one of the largest television network in the world in terms of reach, appears all set to take on a new look --- is searching for a new logo, has auctioned prime time slots on DD National channel, is moving forward on acquiring newer technology, among other things.
But even as the pubcaster marks its 59th birthday on 15 September 2017, will all such moves get it out of the morass it has got itself into, and clear the dust and rust that has settled on umpteen reports making suggestions for improvement, including the Sam Pitroda report that was presented early in 2014?
Why does Doordarshan not function the way BBC World does, putting out the best of programmes without having to worry about the costs involved in production and minimum of influence from its political masters?
Perhaps, the answers to all these vexing questions lie in the unexplained relationship between the government and Prasar Bharati, which is the parent of DD and sibling All India Radio. Often, the query is raised whether Doordarshan was better off as a direct wing under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) till the 1990s, or has it benefitted by becoming ‘autonomous’ after Prasar Bharati Act was enacted in 1997.
A perusal of questions answered in Parliament is very revealing. The replies in most cases begin with the lines that Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body and the government does not interfere, and yet MIB issues directives when it wants to.
Clearly, the answers will come when the details of this relationship become clear. Because, the biggest stumbling block to the pubcaster moving ahead in a fast changing world of broadcasting, according to a section of critics, is the government of the day, which does not leave it free to move on its own and instead believes in the general principle of he who pays the piper plays the tune. For the records, a major portion of funding of Prasar Bharati comes from the government.
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