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"Doordarshan" - The Real Story
Public broadcaster Doordarshan censored NaMo's interview and instantly BJP bristled back. "It was due to government pressure. The public broadcaster insists that there was no interference by any authority or any "deliberate omission". So, what was that Doordarshan failed to enlighten the masses?

The key points edited from the interview and became eye of controversy are:

1. Narendra Modi said that Congress leader Ahmed Patel used to be his good friend.

2. Modi is believed to have said that Priyanka Gandhi was like his daughter.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman says,"It is a shame, when at one point of time Congress party speaks about freedom of speech, there is still space for censor and Congress party is misusing this power."  

Denying any wrongdoing, Doordarshan said in a statement, "there was no deliberate editing or omission of any portion of the interview. Wherever editing was done, it was for technical reasons and during post-production. There was no interference or control from any authority in the entire process." Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said that his ministry does not interfere in Doordarshan's news agenda as it has an "arm's length relationship with Prasar Bharati, which is an autonomous broadcaster by an act of Parliament."

I’m not willing to participate in this dialogue. However, I’m not still ready to buy what Doordarshan is putting in its defence. This organ of public information is at the receiving end at the moment while the country is suffering from Modimania or Modiphobia. The fact of matter is BJP always demands autonomy for Doordarshan when it is in the opposition and seeks control when in government.

Years ago, Doordarshan was the king of airwaves alone. In earlier Congress rule Indra Gandhi and Rajiv were there on screen for one reason or other – important or unimportant. The Bharatiya Janata Party and other opposition parties had rightly and justifiably demanded autonomy for Doordarshan along the lines of the British Broadcasting Corporation. This meant that Doordarshan should be accountable to Parliament and not to the government of the day. It should be granted complete operational and financial autonomy. However, according to Prof S Pachauri the problem lies with political parties. (Ref : His book – “Doordarshan, Autonomy and Independence.”)

Let me recall an episode of NDA period when Pramod Mahajan was Information and Broadcasting Minister. Once, the Doordarshan evening news did not lead with PM Vajpayee’s address to his party members. NDA’s response – Station Director of Bangalore Doordarshan was immediately transferred. Pramod Mahajan had a diploma in journalism. He insisted that not showing Atal Bihari Vajpayee was poor news sense. Doordarshan was disciplined for ever and ended up carrying regular news items of the prime minister and the BJP. Mahajan had also announced that given the huge stake of the government, complete autonomy was not in the nation's best interest, and that his ministry would have to exercise some influence and control. The government has invested Rs 600 billion over the years in the hardware for Doordarshan, India's only terrestrial channel.

It was first the Janta Party, in 1977 that mooted the idea of Doordarshan's autonomy. The idea was revived when the Janata Dal took office in 1989. As per the Prasar Bharati Act 1990, the functioning of Doordarshan is to be guided by the Prasar Bharati board and a chief executive appointed by the government. The board, in turn, is responsible to the parliamentary committee on information, broadcasting, and communications. The Prasar Bharati bill was passed and received presidential assent in December 1990. But before the notification making the bill into law could be issued, the V P Singh government fell. Congress government initially showed no interest in the bill. Then I K Gujral government took charge in 1997. S Jaipal Reddy took control as information and broadcasting minister in I K Gujral government and steered the bill. Gujral government also wanted to make some changes and issued an ordinance to enact the legislation.

Former chief executive S S Gill had once said in praise for the United Front. "Only Jaipal Reddy and Gujral stood by their words on autonomy. No one else has." In fact, Reddy went on record to state that his mission was to close down his ministry of information and broadcasting.

The ordinance of 1997 lapsed in 1998. It was also left the Prasar Bharati board members with a sense of dejavu about their future with the government showing no interest in actually activating organisation. Congress controlled these organs to serve its ends. We know that BJP is a party seeking to spread its ideology and hence it also needs control over the media. This applies to other ideological parties also. So today it may call for autonomy while out of power but once in power, if ever, it would be difficult for it to keep its promise."The party with a difference" isn't all that different from the Congress.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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