The Information and Broadcasting Ministry issued an advisory stating that no Ministry or department of the governments at the Centre, States and Union Territories and their associated entities should enter into broadcasting or distribution of broadcasting activities in future.
- In its latest advisory, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has said that the Centre, States, UTs and their related entities will need to “extract themselves” from existing broadcast distribution activities.
- This process will need to be completed by December 31, 2023.
- Under the existing policy guidelines, government universities, colleges, schools, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, certain autonomous bodies and agricultural universities are eligible to set up community radios.
- The move may have political implications as among those could be impacted by the advisory are Kerala’s KITE VICTERS and KITE VICTERS Plus Tamil Nadu’s Kalvi TV and Arasu Cable, Andhra Pradesh government’s IPTV.
- Further, entry of Central/State/UT Governments into the business of broadcast for educational purposes should be done through the Prasar Bharati route only.
- The Ministry issued this advisory, majorly on the basis of the recommendations made by the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India).
What were the recommendations made by TRAI?
- The TRAI had recommended to the I&B Ministry that Centre, States, UTs and their related entities should not be allowed to enter into the business of broadcasting and/or distribution of TV channels.
- As Prasar Bharati is an independent statutory body, TRAI has recommended that while it should fulfil the legitimate aspirations of government entities with regard to broadcasting activities, it should also maintain an arm’s length relationship with governments.
- TRAI had relied on the spirit of the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendations and the Supreme Court’s judgement in the case of Cricket Association of Bengal (1995) in its recommendations.
- Sarkaria Commission’s recommendation –
- The Sarkaria Commission was set up in 1983 by the central government to examine the central-state relationship on various portfolios.
- The commission had recommended that for controlling the “centrifugal” tendencies, the demand for either a concurrent or an exclusive power to the States regarding broadcasting could not be supported.
- Cricket Association of Bengal case (1995) –
- In this case, the Supreme Court had observed that state control really meant governmental control, which in turn meant control of the political party or parties in power for the time being.
- It had further observed that public service broadcasting should be in the hands of a corporation (such as Prasar Bharati) set up under a statute and the constitution of such a corporation should be such as to ensure their impartiality in political, economic and social matters and on other public issues.
- Broadcasting in Union List of Indian Constitution — Entry 31 of Union list, mentioned in Seventh Schedule, mentions – Posts and telegraphs; telephones, wireless, broadcasting and other like forms of communication.
About Prasar Bharati –
- Prasar Bharati is India’s largest public broadcasting agency.
- It is a statutory autonomous body set up by the Prasar Bharati Act, 1990.
- The Act brought both DD (Dur Darshan) and AIR (All-India Radio) under the ambit of the corporation Prasar Bharati.
- Functions of Prasar Bharati –
- To maintain the country’s unity and integrity as enshrined in the Constitution of India.
- To ensure that citizens’ right to be informed of national and international events and news are fulfilled.
- To spread literacy, agricultural development, and to promote health and the environment.
- To cover sporting activities to promulgate sportsmanship spirit among the citizens.
- To cover and propagate the diversity in the country.
- To serve the rural and weaker sections of society including children, disabled, etc.
- To conduct research and development so that television and radio broadcasts are regularly updated.
- The President of India appoints the chairman and the other Members of the organisation.
- Headquarters – New Delhi