The parliamentary Standing Committee is considering three strategies to meet the deficit amount by Prasar Bharati over the last three fiscals by ensuring all players in the broadcasting sector come on board to share the “social obligation”.
In its 47th report, the committee has advocated a levy of the Public Broadcasting Service Fee (PBSF) on the lines of the Universal Service Obligation Fund in the telecom sector, besides financing of programmes sponsored by ministries, state governments and public sector undertakings. They have also mentioned a third funding option through the collection of license fee on TV sets.
With Prasar Bharti in the doldrums and a cumulative deficit amount of Rs 5,540.22 crore during the three years beginning 2003-04 on record, in spite of the government providing 70 per cent of funds required by the public sector corporation under Plan and Non-Plan allocations, the concept of autonomy has become jaded and professionalism has suffered, the report observed.
“Out of the stipulated 15 members of the Board, only six were in position as on December 4, with key posts... remaining vacant. The new CEO joined the corporation in January after the post having remained vacant for more than six months,” it stated.
The rationale put forward for the levy of PBSF is that every channel should be given the mandate to set aside 10 per cent of time for public sector broadcasting and the fee should be levied on them to the extent they fail to meet the obligation. On a rough estimate, the amount to be realized by PBSF is expected to be to the tune of Rs 800 crore.
The Standing Committee on Information and Technology, headed by Lok Sabha MP Nikhil Kumar, observed the existing state of affairs is uninspiring, and the government must consider these alternatives and bring things to a logical conclusion. “Capital and financial restructuring plans have remained on the drawing board and future needs for inducting innovative technologies have largely not been addressed,” the report said.