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Prasar Bharti draws CAG flak for favouring Shaktiman producer

By Staff
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New Delhi, Mar 24 (UNI) The Prasar Bharti has been castigated by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for extending ''undue concession'' worth Rs 10.66 crore to the producer of popular TV serial 'Shaktiman' by granting it Free Commercial Time (FCT) beyond the sanctioned period and freezing the telecast fee.

The CAG in its report, tabled in Parliament in the budget session, said an additional FCT of 60 seconds per half an hour had been allowed in the beginning (September 1997) since the serial was classified in the children's category.

In March 2000, the report said, the Prasar Bharti informed the producer that while the programme had been granted extension for 26 episodes beyond the 104 episodes already sanctioned, the additional FCT would be withdrawn from 118th episode (telecast on July 2000).

Despite this decision, the Prasar Bharti continued to allow additional FCT of 120 seconds per telecast from July 16 onwards, and no reasons were on record to indicate why the decision was not enforced.

It was only after July 2001 that the normal FCT was enhanced to 300 seconds in terms of the revised rate card. The undue benefit accruing to the producer for the period between July 2000 and July 2001 on account of FCT was Rs 4.90 Crore.

The Prasar Bharti benefitted the producer by freezing the telecast fee at Rs 10.80 lakh from May 6 2001 onwards against the decision to enhance the fee to Rs 21.35 lakh per episode from August 19, 2001 (17th episode) till the last one was telecast on November three 2002.

The reason given by Prasar Bharti for freezing the telecast fee was the programme had a high TRP and was the only channel driver on DD national network on Sunday morning.

However , the Audit found there was no justification for freezing the fee because FCT had already been increased to 300 seconds on July 22, 2001. This caused a revenue loss of Rs 5.76 core.

Thus the producer was given double benefit of substantially reduced telecast fee and enhanced FCT, which cost Prasar Bharti a total of Rs 10.66 crore.

UNI NAZ LS BST1332

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