Route all broadcast activities through Prasar Bharati: Centre

The Centre has issued an advisory to Union ministries, state governments and Union Territories (UTs) to not enter into any broadcasting activities directly, and go only through Prasar Bharati.

The advisory, issued on October 21, and circulated among all secretaries to various government departments and ministries, state chief secretaries and UT administrators, says, “No ministry/department of the Central government and state/UT governments and entities related to them shall enter into broadcasting/distribution of broadcasting activities in future.”

It added that in case any of these entities are already broadcasting the content, “it shall be done through the public broadcaster”. And wherein these entities are already distributing the broadcasting content, they will be required to extract themselves from the distribution activities by December 31, 2023, the advisory stated.

The move is likely to impact the broadcasting activities of several state-run mediums, including some operating in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is the nodal ministry for all matters relating to broadcasting. The official communication said, “As per Article 246 of the Constitution, only the ministry can legislate on these subjects.”

It was in 2012 that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the broadcast regulator, had suggested that the Central and state governments, their related entities, undertakings, joint ventures with the private sector and entities funded by the governments should not be allowed to enter the business of broadcasting.

The advisory noted that the TRAI’s recommendations have been considered by the I&B Ministry. In this regard, the advisory says that TRAI had relied on the spirit of the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendations and the Supreme Court’s observation that “state control really means governmental control, which in turn means control of the political party or parties in power for the time being and has further observed that public service broadcasting should be in the hands of a statutory corporation…to ensure their impartiality in political, economic and social matters and on other public issues”.

Stressing on the key role and importance of Prasar Bharati, “as an independent statutory body”, the TRAI had suggested that it should fulfil the legitimate aspirations of government entities as regards broadcasting activities, while at the same time recommending the ‘arm’s length’ relationship between Prasar Bharati and the government be further strengthened.

The advisory said that the entry of central and state governments and UT administrations into the business of broadcast for educational purposes should be done through suitable agreements between Prasar Bharati and the governments concerned, it said. However, this doesn’t affect the existing policy guidelines regarding the setting up of community radio by government universities, colleges, schools, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Central/ state universities, including autonomous bodies and agricultural universities, the ministry states.

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