Govt?s chief mouth heads AIR

The Centre has ensured that one of the wings of the broadcasting corporation remains its mouthpiece, reports Kumkum Chadha.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2006 01:18 IST

Prasar Bharati is supposed to be an autonomous body, weaned off government control. But the Centre has ensured that one of the wings of the broadcasting corporation, the All India Radio, remains its mouthpiece.

Flouting all norms, the government's principal information officer (PIO), Deepak Sandhu, is doubling as director-general (news) in AIR. Which means that Sandhu, the chief spokesperson of the government, also has the final say on what news bulletins AIR should broadcast. It is a convenient arrangement and Sandhu can use the powerful arm of the AIR to disseminate only what the government would want the nation to know.

Even when the DD and the AIR were government-owned, there was no instance of a senior news official holding a simultaneous charge as PIO.

Conceding that she was holding dual charge, Sandhu told the Hindustan Times that Prasar Bharati worked within a framework. "The board issues guidelines and we work within those," she said. "I am conscious of holding dual charge but I do not meddle in the day-to-day affairs of AIR. It has a team of senior people."

Prasar Bharati CEO K.S. Sarma said the dual charge was given to Sandhu to save the post of DG (news) from being abolished. He told the Hindustan Times, "No one was senior enough to hold the post but it had to be filled." On whether this defeats the very purpose of autonomy, Sarma said, "No comments."

The government has also deviated from the norm in the case of AIR's two additional directors-general (news). They have been loaned to the Press Information Bureau while they remain on the payroll of Prasar Bharati. One of them, Kameshwar Rao, was OSD with former Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The arrangement was finalised through an order issued by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

First Published: Apr 03, 2006 00:15 IST