The Government is exploring the possibility of giving financial autonomy to public broadcaster Prasar Bharati in view of the changing scenario. The country, at present, has nearly 800 channels in operation. The relook at Prasar Bharati’s functioning is also prompted by the fact that nearly 90 per cent of Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s funds are being spent on the public broadcaster.
Sources said some consultations had begun and various financial models could be looked at, which include the way public broadcasters, such as BBC, are funded in the UK, or providing grants to the public broadcaster directly through the consolidated fund, or look at other indigenous funding models. The Government was also looking at whether there was need to revamp the Prasar Bharati Act and also put in place an efficient revenue management model, sources added.
This is in line with the I&B Ministry’s strategy to relook at the efficiency of its various media units and their reach. For instance, to strengthen its presence on the fast growing internet space, the Ministry now has an official YouTube channel. Recently, the Ministry sought fresh views from the telecom and broadcasting regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, on whether State and Central Government or their affiliates could run television channels or could be involved in cable television. In the past, TRAI had said that State Government and its organs should not be permitted to run channels.
In September this year, the Cabinet gave its nod to the financial restructuring proposal of Prasar Bharati, clearing off its debt. Under the proposal, the Government non-Plan support is being given to the public broadcaster for the next five years to meet its full expenses towards salary and related spending, among other measures. The public broadcaster has also started hiring after a gap of nearly 15 years to fill up 1,150 posts in the programming and the technical wings of Doordarshan and All India Radio.
Source: The Hindu