Prasar Bharati chairman A Surya Prakash on Sunday said the government needs to keep that in mind that allowing private FM stations to air news might have security implications.
From democracy point of view, the idea of allowing them to do so looks “very simple” and “must be done”, but given the diversity and internal security concerns of India, which also has thousands of kilometres of borders, the move has a “lot of implications,” he told PTI in Hyderabad.
Noting that new FM channels are going to come in as a few months ago the government had auctioned frequency bandwidth for a few hundreds of them, he said, “You need to seriously ponder over this (whether to allow FM channels to air news) before you take that step.”
While it’s true that private television channels have been allowed to telecast news and current affairs programmes, radio has a “different audience, different kind of reach and there are lot of issues about them”, he said.
Surya Prakash was here in connection with Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union’s first edition of International Television Dance Festival, hosted by Prasar Bharati, in Hyderabad on Sunday.
Asked if he was in favour of making All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan -- owned by Prasar Bharati -- corporate entities so that dependence on the government for funding was reduced and there was greater flexibility in decision-making, he said he had heard that somewhere a group of government secretaries made that recommendation, but added that he did not exactly know what they had in mind.
“AIR and Doordarshan are already part of Prasar Bharati. Prasar Bharati is an autonomous corporation established by Parliament. Now, suppose if you want to hive off AIR and Doordarshan from Prasar Bharati...yes you can do that but first you have to repeal the Prasar Bharati Act.
“Once you take away AIR and Doordarshan, there is nothing left there (with Prasar Bharati). You have to repeal the Prasar Bharati Act if you want to do it,” he said.
Asked if there is a proposal to merge Prasar Bharati with the information and broadcasting ministry, Surya Prakash dubbed it as “some story floated in some newspapers and it has no legs to stand up as to what is meant by that”.
“When there is an act passed by Parliament called Prasar Bharati Act, and Parliament created an autonomous corporation called Prasar Bharati and gave All India Radio and Doordarshan to it, what do you mean by merger of Prasar Bharati into information and broadcasting ministry?
“Again it boils down to this, anything you want to do with Prasar Bharati or the entities owned by Prasar Bharati, you have to repeal the act. For that you have to build political consensus,” he said.
Asked if Prasar Bharati has exercised its autonomy, Surya Prakash said it’s the will and law of Parliament.
“Even as Parliament said you (Prasar Bharati) are an autonomous corporation, 95% of employees are central government employees who have been loaned out to Prasar Bharati, and salaries of those employees are paid by Union government. This is where the things are at the moment,” he said.
“What about autonomy of Prasar Bharati? I will say Prasar Bharati is on road to autonomy. Sometimes, some things take time to fructify,” he added.