DD, AIR asked to cut down social broadcasts

BY Deepshikha Ghosh| IN Media Practice | 26/04/2005
India`s state-run television and radio have been told to cut down on social causes and make money.

Indo-Asian News Service

Deepshikha Ghosh

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) India`s state-run television and radio have been told to cut down on social causes and make money. National broadcaster Prasar Bharati has been asked by a parliamentary standing panel to reduce the airtime given to programmes with social messages on Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) because they bring no revenue.

This was in response to submissions by both Doordarshan and AIR that they were obligated to devote thousands of hours to programmes that no private channel would touch.AIR complained that its 215 stations across the country were bogged down by the weight of completely unprofitable programmes.

In a year, these included - over 3,000 hours for Republic Day, 2,000 hours for Independence Day, 3,000 hours for Lok Sabha proceedings, 5,600 for parliamentary broadcast. More than 2,000 hours of environment campaigns, 4,000 hours dedicated to consumer protection and some 2,300 hours for petroleum conservation.

- Programmes for industrial workers take up over 4,000 hours. Those for eradication of untouchability 3,800 hours, and programmes on the new economic policy over 6,000 hours.

?Nobody will come forward to fund because we are doing programmes for industrial workers and eradication of untouchability,? AIR Director General Brajeshwar Singh told IANS. Responding to the hourly break-up for the social broadcast, an official of a private radio broadcaster exclaimed: ?For us, it would be suicide!?

The panel was told that the revenue earned by Doordarshan was mainly through commercial activities such as sport events and latest Hindi feature films. The panel concluded that the number of hours allotted for government and social broadcasting be limited so that Prasar Bharati can maintain a ?meaningful balance between social obligations and financial considerations?.

In fact, the panel has favoured a redefining of Prasar Bharati`s role and possible restructuring so that it played a role in informing, educating and entertaining the public without ignoring the financial and social obligations.

?A lot
of time is consumed on Doordarshan for advertising on social causes, gender concerns, environmental campaigns et al, which involves a social obligation it has to fulfil in its capacity of being a government channel and for which there is no revenue,? said the panel.

It has also recommended that AIR seek approval for restricting the number of hours of social broadcasting. ?AIR should encourage corporate entities and multinationals to spend a part of their social welfare budget on sponsoring such programmes,? it said.

Prasar Bharati points out that private channels, with no obligations to burden them, are earning huge revenue on the strength of television sets made available by the government across the country.

Prasar Bharati CEO K.S. Sarma suggested a universal obligation fund to be paid by private channels from their revenue, since they were gaining from the ?90 million sets being made available through the public broadcaster?.

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