Has the government given up on its public-service broadcaster, Prasar Bharati? The I&B Ministry has made a proposal for a news and current-affairs channel in the league of the CNN and BBC but independent of the Doordarshan. The channel — meant to project brand India globally — will be under a trust or a company floated by the ministry.
So far, so good. But there is a catch. Funds for the channel may not flow fully from government coffers. To fund it, people may have to pay a tax on the electronic items they buy. The ministry, which is piloting the project, has proposed a cess of 0.5 per cent on the sale of all electronic goods and tax on exports to generate Rs 336 crore annually for the channel apart from an initial cost of Rs 60 crore.
Can't the private sector fund the channel and spare the common man? The private sector, apparently, thinks it is financially not viable and is unwilling to spend on it.
A proposal, which was finalised by a committee headed by I&B secretary S.K. Arora and forwarded to the Prime Minister's Office last week for consideration, says the channel was required to project India's image as a "soft power" in view of its booming economy.
"It will be an Indian initiative but will reflect a large Asian perspective," says Sasi Kumar, member of the committee, in a note to the committee and suggests the channel must be in the league of the CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera.
Sources say the committee had rejected Doordarshan’s proposal for a similar international-affairs channel, saying DD’s technology was outdated. The committee has also ruled out the option of utilising Prasar Bharati’s infrastructure and staff for the new channel.
It has instead recommended a studio outside Mandi House. “The quality of the channel and platform for broadcast being looked at are of international standards,” says the committee report.
The proposal adds there will be no government interference and the CEO and the chief editor will be responsible for the content of the channel.