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Public Service Broadcasters In Dire Straits

Successive Governments have been accused of turning a deaf ear to the simmering discontentment among programmers during their decades-old struggle, but, it is Narendra Modi who has attached immense importance to the potential of the broadcasters to disseminate his messages and consequently, he is expected to address the plight of hapless programmers

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While delivering his Mann Ki Bat every Sunday, did Prime Minister Narendra Modi ever afford to address Andar Ki Bat (inside story) within the auxiliary setup? The answer is not in the affirmative. Unencumbered by what thousand of programmers – whom he hinges on to air his innovative messages – are faced with, the Prime Minister is implicitly held responsible for the subversion of the system in All India Radio and Doordarshan.  

The two public service broadcasters, All India Radio and Doordarshan, are in dire straits for want of programme heads. Officials from Indian Broadcasting Programme Service (IBPS) have been denied regular promotions for the past over 30 years and entrusted with the task to discharge their duties as ad hoc heads at different units of AIR and Doordarshan across the country instead. Interestingly, contrary to the set norms envisaged by the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) of the Government of India for the ad hoc appointment of six months – subject to extension upto one year – officials of the IBPS have remained on ad hoc posts for the past about twenty years. More, they were often elevated to subsequent ad hoc posts during the tenure of their unauthorised initial ad hoc promotion.

Consequently, after their superannuation, officials are liable to get benefits of the permanent post they held before elevation to the ad hoc posts. For instance, apart from many IBPS officials who retired from ad hoc posts in the recent past and are availing benefits of their permanent posts only, Director  Programme (as Station Director is referred to) at Patna Doordarshan Kendra, P N Singh deserves a special mention. Singh who is retiring this month remained on ad hoc incumbent for about two decades. A programme officer (Producer Grade-II) of the 1984 batch, Singh got first ad hoc promotion to the rank of Assistant Station Director (now Assistant Director Programme) in 1999 initially for a period of six months, but he further continued in the post and even got subsequent ad hoc promotion in 2013 to the post of Director Programme. However, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting raised objections about his second ad hoc promotion and repealed his promotion order. He was, thus, reverted to the post of ad hoc ADP that he is to relinquish on July 31. Ironically, he will be drawing superannuation benefits of the permanent post that he held before 1999. As such, in the past 34 years of his service, Singh did not get even a single regular promotion.  

Similarly, Subodh Kumar at Doordarshan Kendra, Ranchi who was given ad hoc promotion to the post of Assistant Director Programme in June, 2016 for a period of six months that was extended for a further period of six months and his ad hoc promotion is, as such, supposed to stand infructuous since June, 2017. But he continues in the post and even discharges the duty of officiating Station Director -- for want of a permanent Director –  at the behest of the Directorate of Doordarshan, New Delhi.

Likewise, G. Sajan of 1984 batch of Producer Grade-II cadre has been working as ad hoc Director at Doordarshan, Delhi (DD Directorate), Rupa Mehta of 1986 batch of Programme Executive cadre has been working as ad hoc Director at Doordarshan in Ahmedabad, Baiju Chandrama of 1984 batch of Producer Grade-II cadre has been working as ad hoc Director at Doordarshan in Thiruvananthapuram, Mukul Talukdar of 1984 batch of Producer Grade-II cadre has been working as ad hoc Director at Doordarshan in Guwahati, Andal Priyadarshini of 1988 batch of Programme Executive cadre has been working as ad hoc Director at Doordarshan in Pudduchery, etc. The anomalies prevail in AIR too as Santosh Nahar of 1991 batch of Programme Executive cadre has been working as ad hoc Director at AIR in Delhi, Deby Roy of 1991 batch of Programme Executive cadre has been working as ad hoc Director at AIR in Kolkata and so on.           

These ad hoc officials were, in fact, given ad hoc promotions by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on the basis of their length of services. But, on the completion of their stipulated period of ad hoc promotion, the ministry preferred to remain silent for reasons best known to it. However, in the light of initial ad hoc promotion order, the controlling body of AIR and Doordarshan, Prasar Bharati allowed the incumbents to continue with their ad hoc posts even after completion of the period of ad hoc promotion. It is learnt that programme officials are eligible to get in IBPS cadre with their promotions to the rank of ADP.  

Of the total 1038 sanctioned posts of IBPS cadre officials in both the organisations, about one thousand posts of IBPS cadre are lying vacant. IBPS cadre officers are said to have been deprived of the posts of Deputy Director, Director and Deputy Director General and only two officials from this cadre are at the rank of Additional Director General while remaining positions have been filled up with officers of other services including IDES, IOFS, IIS, CSS and IRS.

In order to register their protest against the Government’s apathy, Programme cadre officers of AIR and Doordarshan have been holding regular ‘Gate Meetings’ at their respective centres across the country. In a written statement, they claim that in the past 20 years, Prasar Bharati (the controlling body of AIR and Doordarshan) has spent about Rs 3000 crore on its secretarial operations while viewership and revenue as well have steadily plummeted in the past ten years. Of the total strength of about 24000 personnel in Prasar Bharati, only 15 per cent are from programme cadre and less than 15 per cent of the budget is spent on content creation and programme production as against 70 per cent of their budget is spent on programming by public service broadcasters in other countries, they alleged.

To top it all, a pertinent question remains unanswered: Should the present dispensation at the Centre be held solely responsible for the crisis and should lapses on the part of successive Governments for eventual growth of such appalling conditions at AIR and Doordarshan over the years be set aside? Indeed, successive Governments have been accused of turning a deaf ear to the simmering discontentment among programmers during their decades-old struggle, but, it is Narendra Modi who, unlike his predecessors, has attached immense importance to the potential of the two public service broadcasters to disseminate his messages and consequently, he is expected to address the plight of hapless programmers.


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