According to recent news items, Prasar Bharati may either be given a fresh “corporate status”, or it may be headed for the chopping board.
The former would actually degrade a battered body even further, since a PSU or a sarkari corporation, which is often summoned to bestow favours that financial rules hardly permit, is held way down in the pecking order of governance. But, who or what is Prasar Bharati? The opening line of Edward Lear’s nonsense rhyme comes to mind: “Who, or why, or which, or what / Is the Akond of Swat?” This amusing creature has successfully bedevilled any clear understanding of its role and functioning.
On the whole, it may not be a bad idea to corporatise it, except that the law as pronounced by the Supreme Court in 1995 may stand in the way. The Court had freed air waves from state control and had mandated the constitution of a “public body”. It thus needs to be seen if a private company or a PSU would fit the bill. Five years before this, former prime minister VP Singh had passed the Prasar Bharati Act promising to liberate and modernise orthodox AIR and DD, little realising that the Act had been surgically injected with a virus by officials anxious to ensure state hegemony. Right from November 1997, when Prasar Bharati became operational, the ineradicable government mindset of its 48,000 employees transferred in one stroke from the ministry to the new autonomous body, did its bit by ensuring that security and subservience would always be preferred over performance and innovation. Can the proposed corporate makeover delete-abort them?
When Indian viewers began deserting a prosaic DD for more colourful private TV channels in early 2000, Prasar Bharati actually aided this exodus by driving away many talented producers. Its control-raj pomposity and never ending ‘demands’ resulted in numerous, indefensible court cases that weigh it down........