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The radio blues

The radio blues
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First Published: Sat, Mar 19 2011. 01 10 AM IST

Unfair: AIR underpays artistes.  Thinkstock
Unfair: AIR underpays artistes. Thinkstock
Updated: Sat, Mar 19 2011. 01 10 AM IST
Dear Pranab babu’s Union Budget 2011 has been debated, analysed, dissected and commented upon both by experts and sundry others from all walks of life. I must confess that I feel far from qualified to comment on the Budget, and more so because this column appears in a business newspaper known for its focus on business and financial information. But I cannot help wondering if anyone at all, including dear artistically inclined Pranab babu, has paused to think for even a moment about reviewing the pitiful sums offered to artistes by state-controlled and administered cultural organizations and institutions. For example, take the case of All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan, the radio and television arms of Prasar Bharati, described as the “Public Service Broadcaster of the country” on their website.
Unfair: AIR underpays artistes. Thinkstock
AIR pays its empanelled musicians and artistes a tiered broadcasting fee based on the grades they are awarded by an auditioning committee. The fee structure reported by reliable sources is as follows:
B grade artiste: Rs1,015 per recording, the duration of which could range from 60-90 minutes or even more.
B High grade: Rs1,215 onwards for a similar recording session.
A grade: Rs2,025 onwards for a recording session.
Top grade: Rs6,750 onwards for a recording session.
Increments of a princely sum of Rs100 may be awarded every two-three years on the recommendation of the home station, but since the final decision in this regard rests with the Delhi station, there is every chance that Delhi may not pay heed to recommendations by other stations, and artistes could still be going home with a measly fee in these days of galloping inflation.
No further fee is paid for repeat broadcasts, so the sound recording can be used in perpetuity without any further payment to the artistes in question. Theoretically then, if a Bharat Ratna or a Padma Vibhushan awardee were to perform on AIR, their fee would probably be a paltry Rs6,750, and only if the artiste in question was empanelled as a Top grade artiste. If, by some mischance, they were to remain in the A grade or B High bracket, they could be paid a mere Rs2,025 or Rs1,215 despite their exalted positions. And let’s not forget the fact that these recordings could, at any point, be published by AIR or sold for commercial release to other labels in the music industry. All the artistes are entitled to is a further payment that ranges between two-four times their regular broadcasting fee. For the sake of clarity let me mention here that an artiste in the B High category who originally received a sum of Rs1,215 for a broadcast, would be entitled to receive only an amount ranging between Rs2,430 and Rs4,860 if the original recording were to be released as an audio CD!
We could go on harping about the prestige associated with being a radio artiste broadcasting on the national network, but let’s be realistic. Paucity of budgets has drastically reduced the number of programmes offered to empanelled artistes. Therefore, an artiste who was earlier offered six broadcasts annually is now probably getting only two or three broadcasting opportunities, and, therefore, only two or three undernourished cheques. Dear Pranab babu, won’t you play Santa in this case?
Write to Shubha at musicmatters@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Mar 19 2011. 01 10 AM IST