Financial autonomy will take time: Prasar Bharati chairman A. Surya Prakash
New Delhi: Last week, former journalist A. Surya Prakash was reappointed as the chairman of the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio. With plans to professionalize and digitize the largest media corporation of the world, the 67-year-old author, who has been at the helm of Prasar Bharati since 2014, took charge on Monday.
In an interview, Prakash talks about the mindset of Prasar Bharati employees, financial autonomy and his relationship with the government. Edited excerpts:
What will be your agenda for the second term?
We have to professionalize Prasar Bharati in a bid to leverage its true potential. Both Doordarshan and All India Radio have virtually been departments of the union government, which is why there is a ‘sarkari’ environment in the organization.I have always emphasized that Prasar Bharati is not a government office but the biggest media corporation in the world. Hence, there is an urgent need to change the mindset of all those who work in the organization, even though most of those in the workforce are government employees loaned to Prasar Bharati. That is of prime importance to both Doordarshan and All India Radio.
You have always pitched for the autonomy of Prasar Bharati. How far has the public broadcaster come in terms of autonomy ?
Twenty years ago, Prasar Bharati Act came into being and the entire responsibility to run All India Radio and Doordarshan was given to the organization. It is the will of the Parliament that Prasar Bharati functions as a “genuinely autonomous corporation.”
Given India’s reality and the current circumstances, we are on the road to autonomy. So long as the Prasar Bharati Act is enforced, there is no U-turn on this road. All those who are at the helm of Prasar Bharati must always be conscious of the mandate of Parliament and work towards that.
However, financial autonomy is some distance away. We have to think of new ways to generate revenue without losing sight of the core agenda of the public broadcaster. As we professionalize the organization both on the content and on the marketing side, we will be able to improve our revenue. That is going to take some time; it can’t happen overnight.
What is the way forward for Prasar Bharati, given the competition from private players?
I believe digitization is a key driver in the new-age Prasar Bharati that we are trying to build. We have to be technologically savvy to make forays into the digital world. I had constituted a committee of experts (which I headed) to look into the creation of a digital platform. That report was prepared and submitted to the government. I would like to vigorously pursue that project. A global digital platform will be our window to the world and that’s when the voice of India will be heard globally in a strong and effective manner.
Another thing that I have pushed in the last three years and will continue pushing is creating awareness about various national schemes like Jan Dhan Yojana and sanitation programmes. As a public service broadcaster, we have a huge responsibility towards these schemes.
And most importantly, our programming needs to be available in all possible formats and attractive to the youth of this country. That is a very huge and influential audience.
How is the relationship of Prasar Bharati with the government?
The union government provides a budgetary support to Prasar Bharati. It pays the salaries of all the employees, which goes up to Rs2,800 crore a year. Since there is public money flowing into this corporation, the government is answerable to the Parliament for all that happens in Prasar Bharati. Hence, it is very important that Prasar Bharati has a right kind of relationship with the government.
For the last three years, my relationship with the government has been very cordial. I think there is an all-round understanding among all stakeholders about the core and essence of the Prasar Bharati Act. My experience in the last three years has been satisfactory.