New Delhi: The Information and Broadcasting ministry has sought a report from Prasar Bharati on decisions relating to Amitabh Bachchan's promotional campaign for Doordarshan(DD) Kisan channel to clear the "confusion" over the issue of payments to the superstar.
The ministry has written to the Public Broadcaster after reports appeared claiming that Rs 6.31 crore was the price that Doordarshan was paying for the actor's campaign. However, questions over the matter arose after Bachchan denied having received any payment and declared that he was doing it "pro bono".
"The ministry wants to know, the process through which the decision was taken and whether due diligence was done," a senior ministry official said today.
Prasar Bharati sources, when asked about the ministry decision to seek a report, however, said that a report may be sent to the Board of the public broadcaster first which would then take a call on the future course to be adopted.
Sources said that Additional Secretary in the Ministry J S Mathur, who is a member of the Prasar Bharati Board, in an email to CEO Jawhar Sircar raised questions about the processes followed.
Mathur has written that "bypassing the (Internal Finance Division(IFD) of Prasar Bharati, the contracted amount of Rs 8 plus crore has been reportedly released to the Ad agency through some procedure without requisite approvals at Prasar Bharati level."
Mathur emphasised that no contract proposal for publicity of DD Kisan channel with the said advertising firm was discussed or approved at the Prasar Bharati board meeting.
"The matter requires to be seriously looked into immediately and responsibility fixed to ensure that all matters in Kisan channel and Doordarshan remain absolutely above board," Mathur said in his email.
Meanwhile, a company spokesperson for Lintas, the advertising agency said that DD Kisan had formally authorised them on March 31, 2015 to negotiate on their behalf with Bachchan's office.
"This was gone about with utmost transparency amongst all three parties involved. After much negotiation, Mr.Bachchan's office on 12.05.15, sent communication to Lintas on the fee approval. Post receipt of this communication from Mr. Bachchan?s office, we sent the necessary paperwork to DD Kisan who then went ahead with the processing and release of the payment to Lintas," the company said.
Lintas said though the discussions on the fee clause inthe contract was concluded, Lintas was up until recently, still negotiating diligently with Mr. Bachchan?s office on a variety of other clauses and terms that were to be for the best interest of DD Kisan.
"However yesterday ( 20.07.15 ) afternoon, we received formal communication from his office, that upon reviewing the work-in-progress contract with his team, Mr. Bachchan had taken a decision on principle that he will not charge any fee on issues involving social causes and those that are in the best interest of the nation and a request to Lintas to treat all conversations and discussions on the contract so far as null and void," the company said.
Saying that it welcomes the decision to do the work for DD Kisan "pro?bono", Lintas said that it has initiated the process of refund ( which will be concluded today ) to our client, DD Kisan, for the amount collected for Mr. Bachchan's celebrity endorsement which was pending payment to him since the contract was still under discussion and not yet signed off.
Responding to questions raised by Mathur in his letter, a senior Prasar Bharati official said that there was a mention regarding the publicity for the channel, though complete details may not have been there.
Asserting that Prasar Bharati too was concerned, the official said the details of the matter would be examined.
Referring to the I&B ministry seeking a report, the official said that while on certain important issues the ministry says it is "autonomous" but applies a different yardstick on other occasions.
Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar when asked about the issue yesterday had said that "there was some communication gap".
He added that DD Kisan did mark Rs 8.6 crore approximately for a professional roll-out campaign by Lintas that goes on for an year till 2016.
"Amitabh Bachchan was roped in and he did a great job as brand
ambassador. I am told that no payment was made to Amitabh Bachchan and the matter was still under negotiation. Now the air is cleared," Sircar said, when asked about Bachchan's comments on the matter.