New package for Prasar Bharati in offering

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New Delhi, Jun 20 (UNI) The fund-starved Prasar Bharati may be exempted from paying certain state taxes as part of a package to enable it to sustain itself without compromising its role as a public broadcaster.

A set of proposals for bailing out the Corporation from its present situation would be placed before the Group of Ministers,(GoM) headed by Home Minister Shivraj Patil, at a meeting to be convened soon, sources in the Ministry told UNI.

''The Ministry has after a long process of consultations and deliberations has arrived at a conclusion that Doordarshan and the All India Radio need to be generously supported by the government,'' they said.

''Being the public broadcaster, the Prasar Bharati has to operate under a certain mandate to produce programmes of quality and information avoiding crass entertainment, so it cannot expect to attract the same kind and number of advertisements as a private channel, hence the need for permamnent government support,'' the Ministry feels.

Under the financial restructuring, the Prasar Bharati would be exempted from paying certain state taxes, but excluding the service tax, and the government departments would divert more of their advertisements and other projects to it.

There are also other plans like asking the public broadcaster to increasingly lease its infrastructure to private operators to generate revenue.

The sources said certain other issues concerning the employees, most of whom wanted that they should be treated as government employees and assets of the Coprporation should also stay in the hands of the government, would also come up before the GoM, ''which now wants to finish the job as early as possible.'' The GoM in its meeting had recently had that employees would be considered as deemed government staff on deputation, but they were not satisfied and demanding that they should be taken as permanent government staff.

The Supreme Court, while hearing a case filed by employees, also recently told the Ministry that to keep them in the deemd government employees category was no permanent solution.

If the employees' demands are to be met, an amendment in the Act would be needed, and the issue would also be considered before the coming GoM meting.

The GoM, was set up in March 2006 to review the Prasar Bharati Broadcasting Corporation's performance and look into the grievances of its 45,000 employees.

It had over a year ago asked I and B Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi to start outlining the roadmap right away.

The Act was passed by Parliament in 1990. However, it was notified only from September 1997 after the Supreme Court ruling in February 1995 that airwaves were public property and could not be monopolised.

The judgment came at a time when AIR and Doordarshan held the monopoly of broadcasting and it was strongly felt that these media should reflect variety of views and perspectives in their news and other programmes.

However, the media scene has undergone a sea change in the last 15 years and airwaves are now dominated by private players, a scenario in which the space for social issues has been shrinking day by day.

The situation has prompted a thinking in the government that All India Radio and Doordarshan should provide space to public interest issues, as no private media organisation is going to do that, and for that they need to be financially supported.

UNI NAZ SW RK1530

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