Eight months after infighting came to the fore in Prasar Bharati (PB), the Information and Broadcasting ministry is set to intervene and is looking at different options, including issuing an Ordinance, to supercede the existing board members or replace some of them.
The government constituted the public broadcasting body Prasar Bharati Board in 1992 on lines of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to provide full functional and financial autonomy to run Doordarshan and All India Radio. The board still gets close to Rs 1,500 crore from the ministry (85 per cent of its budget) every year to run the organization of 40,000 employees.
Since February 2009, the board’s functioning has come to a standstill with two factions led by its Chairman Arun Bhatnagar and its Chief Executive Officer BS Lalli accusing each other of administrative malpractices, resulting in court cases.
“We are seeking informal legal view on different options available,” a senior ministry functionary told HT. “Nothing has been firmed up so far and all options are under discussion”.
The ministry cannot directly intervene as the Prasar Bharati Act gives powers only to Parliament to supercede the board or remove a permanent member.
“Ordinance is the possible way out,” an official, who didn’t want to be named, said. “The decision will be taken at political level”.
In 2008, the ministry had used the Ordinance route to remove the then chairman MV Kamath.
Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had reportedly asked I&B Minister Ambika Soni to restore order in the corporation. Soni had tried to break the ice between the two factions, but failed.
“Each section blames the other for the chaos and are refusing to budge,” a ministry functionary explained.
I&B secretary Raghu Menon met Chief Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha and Union Law Secretary TK Vishwanathan to discuss various options. The ministry had referred seven cases related to PB to the Central Vigilance Commission for inquiry.
The worst causality of the infighting has been the delay in finalisating the broadcast preparations for the Commonwealth Games 2010, for which, the I&B ministry has now set an October 15 deadline.
“We have to get the games broadcast plan approved at the meeting of World Broadcasting Union in Delhi on October 26 or else Prasar Bharati case lose the contract of being host broadcaster,” a ministry official said.