Prasar Bharati-I&B tussle nears close? Former to discuss rightsizing, Free-Dish
After months of a standoff with the I&B Ministry, the Prasar Bharati (PB) board is expected to discuss key issues of contention at a board meeting today. Two prime topics are rightsizing and sale of vacant Free Dish slots. Despite several reminders from I&B, PB hasn't acted yet, alleging its autonomy is being violated. Meanwhile, I&B insists it is only concerned with fiscal prudence.
PB has refused I&B's proposal to appoint editorial heads
Appointments have been a main matter of disagreement. In its last board meeting in February, PB rejected I&B's resolution to appoint a serving IAS officer in its board. PB claimed it would violate the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990. It also delayed appointment of DD News head and PB chief editor, citing their "exorbitant" salaries (Rs. 1cr and Rs. 75L respectively).
PB moves from refusing rightsizing to conducting manpower audit
On rightsizing, the I&B proposed cutting off PB's contractual employees to trim the body's strength. Last time, PB refused, but it has recently initiated a manpower audit, as suggested by various committees, to identify overstaffed departments.
I&B questions why PB selling Free-Dish slots for so low
I&B is also upset with PB's policy of Free Dish slot allocation. In its ninth letter to P&B since November'17, I&B last month asked why it was offering slots to private channels at Rs. 6-8cr when the cost of running it comes to Rs. 250cr. Corporations like Sony, Star and Zee, which earn Rs. 500-700cr per channel, don't need subsidies, it added.
Amid tussle, I&B reportedly kept PB employees' salaries on hold
Amid the tussle, I&B, which provides over half of PB's annual budget, reportedly didn't release funds for salaries, and the organization had to pay employees for January-February from its contingency funds. In response, I&B said PB hadn't yet signed an MoU mandatory to receive grants. Later, PB CEO SS Vempati said I&B released Rs. 208cr towards salaries on February 28, but didn't specify for which months.
Today's meeting expected to resolve key issues
"The board will examine the MoU that has to be signed between the I&B and PB for the current financial year," an official said about today's meeting. Another said it will discuss budgetary provisions, an MoU with BARC, and the various cases pending against it in courts. "The policy of slot on DD Free Dish is also expected to come up," they added.