New Delhi: In a hard-hitting letter, Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar yesterday acknowledged that certain portions of the Narendra Modi interview on Doordarshan “were apparently edited” and pointed a finger at Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari for failing to grant the public broadcaster the “operational autonomy” it has been seeking for years.
Sircar, who in the past has taken on the minister over interference in the functioning of Prasar Bharati, pointed to the interference the government can have in the form of transfers, appointments and punitive action against Prasar Bharati officials.
Tewari pleaded ignorance about the letter Sircar had shot off to the Prasar Bharati board, under which Doordarshan and All India Radio function.
Tewari said: “I have not seen the letter. It was not addressed to me, so how am I supposed to comment.”
On Thursday, Tewari had said: “Prasar Bharati is an autonomous broadcaster and is governed by an act of parliament. The ministry of information and broadcasting has an arms-length relationship with the broadcaster. We do not interfere in their news agenda.”
In his letter, Sircar said he had been inundated with calls, social media messages, e-mails and other queries to find out whether Doordarshan had withheld the Modi interview and why it had edited out portions.
He said “…it appears that while portions critical of Doordarshan were telecast, certain comments on other personalities were apparently edited” in the Modi interview telecast on April 27.
Asserting that “questions have been raised in the public domain about the impartiality and ‘motives’ of the public broadcaster”, Sircar said the PB board had “taken several resolutions in the last two years, seeking more operational autonomy from the ministry, but it has failed to do so”.
Sircar said: “In a way, therefore, MIB (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) lost an opportunity to convince a young minister (Manish Tewari) to break this long traditional linkage between the ministry and the News Division, which has continued unabated even after PB was born and assigned its distinct role in 1997.”
“The mechanisms of appointment, transfers, career assessments and even punitive actions against senior officials of the News Division are bound to cast a ‘shadow’, in some form,” he said.
After the DD team got the interview with Modi, there were concerns that they had not yet managed an interview with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. “I gave him (DG News) the ‘strength’ to go ahead and telecast the interview, even though there were concerns that a ‘balancing interview’ from the other side could not be procured,” Sircar said.