Flashback 2015: FTII, censor board issues kept I&B ministry busy in 2015

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New Delhi, Dec 24: The Information and Broadcasting Ministry was hit by several controversies in 2015 be it issues related to FTII and censor board or appointments.

The ministry, however, held a successful round of private radio auctions during the year and DD Kisan was launched. In January, Leela Samson, the then chief of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) alleged interference by the ministry and submitted her resignation.

FTII

A massive controversy erupted and several other board members followed suit. Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley had to step in and emphasised that the NDA government maintains arm's length distance from matters related to film certification.

The ministry accepted Samson's resignation and appointed Pahlaj Nihalani in her place. Nihalani proved no stranger to controversies either as soon after taking over, he circulated a list of banned cuss words, which was opposed among others by CBFC members themselves.

Over the year, several members of the Board expressed unhappiness over Nihalani's functioning. Meanwhile, another appointment that the ministry made in June, nominating small-time actor Gajendra Chauhan as the president of the FTII Society, led to a much greater upheaval.

Students of the premier film institute went on strike, and three members of FTII society -- Santosh Sivan, Jahnu Barua and Pallavi Joshi -- also quit. Several rounds of talks between the students and the ministry followed.

The logjam even took a nasty turn when five students were arrested after FTII director Prashant Pathrabe was gheraoed by them. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also paid a visit to the FTII campus in support of the students' demands.

The students ended their strike after over four months, but their protest continues and Chauhan is yet to visit the institute after being nominated its head. Another controversy that the I&B ministry witnessed was when it issued an order on the appointment of senior Information Service officer Veena Jain as Director General of DD News saying she would "report to the ministry for all purposes".

The order triggered a debate over the issue of autonomy of the public broadcaster and the I&B ministry modified it saying Jain would report to Prasar Bharati for "all operational purposes" and to the ministry as officer on special duty.

The year also saw a joint 'Mann ki Baat' address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama on All India Radio. Modi launched DD Kisan Channel on May 26, as his government completed its first year in office.

Among other stories was e-auction of the first batch of Phase III FM private radio channels.

At the close of the e-auction, 97 channels in 56 cities became provisional winning ones, earning a cumulative provisional revenue of about Rs 1,156.9 crore as against an aggregate reserve price of about Rs 459.8 crore.

During the year, the ministry also laid a norm for TV channels to not broadcast live anti-terrorist operations.

International news channel Al Jazeera was forced to go off air in the country for five days as the government penalised it for repeatedly showing wrong maps of India.

Four leading news broadcasters were issued show cause notices to three TV channels for their coverage related to Yakub Memon's hanging.

As the year comes to an end, the ministry is now focusing on implementing the Phase III of its ambitious digitisation drive, under which all urban areas in the country which were not covered in the Phase I and II will be covered. The cut off date for Phase III is December 31.

PTI

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