Pitroda-led panel on Prasar Bharati makes strong case for autonomy

    By IANS,

    New Delhi : Making a strong case for autonomy, an expert panel headed by technocrat Sam Pitroda Friday suggested that the Prasar Bharati Board be reorganised to make the public broadcaster a professionally-managed body that can oversee all its assets and human resources to make it “administratively and financially autonomous of government”.

    The report of the Pitroda-headed panel submitted its report to Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Friday.

    The committee, tasked with reviewing the institutional framework of Prasar Bharati, including its relationship with the government, acknowledged that it needs state funding and will therefore have to broadcast the government’s “messages and accomplishments of public interest”.

    “Autonomy is a big issue,” said Pitroda, advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation, at the event to release the committee’s report.

    “Government does need a vehicle to promote its views and we have to take care of that. We can’t take funding, have our autonomy and not have a separate independent mechanism for government to promote its own messages and welfare measures,” he said, emphasising that the public broadcaster “needs to look at public interest and not just government interest”.

    Another of the expert committee’s major recommendations is monetising Prasar Bharati’s assets, including vast tracts of land across the country where the shortwave radio transmitters that are no longer used were set up.

    “We need to monetise available assets, including archival material, which can substantially fetch funds,” said Pitroda.

    The panel, formed last Jan 28, focused on eight major areas – organisational, funding, human resources, content, technology, archiving, social media and global outreach.

    In its recommendation on managing its large pool of ageing human resource, the panel has recommended that Prasar Bharati be given “the power to frame rules and regulations for its employees without seeking prior approval of the government”.

    “We have a lot of people, can we retrain some of them to use them effectively.. we don’t need so many.. most are in the age group 50-55, we need young talent,” said Pitroda.

    The panel has also recommended an “effective recruitment system to attract the best talent and allow the hiring of skilled professionals”.

    On autonomy, Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar, said it was a “highly charged subject.. gets emotional on either side”, reflective of the tussles the public broadcaster has had with the government on occasions on the issue.

    Sircar said autonomy is meant by “freedom of options” and explained that the short wave services are not being used and needed to be shut down, and for which an elaborate process needed to be followed. “Äutonomy is the option to take a call,” he said.

    A recommendation the government could immediately implement is on social media, said Pitroda.

    The panel, tasked with recommending “transformative changes that could lead Doordarshan and All India Radio into the 21st century”, set up 11 working groups comprising 10 experts.