Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: In the wake of a massive controversy over Narendra Modi`s interview to Doordarshan, Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar on Friday acknowledged that certain portions of the Gujarat Chief Minister`s interview on Doordarshan "were apparently edited".
Acknowledging that certain comments on personalities were apparently edited, the public broadcaster, which supervises the functioning of Doordarshan, said the free hand was given even though there were concerns that a "balancing interview" from the other side could not be procured despite best attempts of DD News.
The Prasar Bharati CEO pointed a finger at Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari for failing to grant "operational autonomy" to the public broadcaster that it has been seeking for years.
Sircar, who in the past too has taken on the minister over interference in functioning of Prasar Bharati, pointed to the interference the government can have in the form of transfers, appointments and punitive actions regarding Prasar Bharati officials.
The letter comes in the midst of a raging controversy over the delay in the telecast of the Modi`s interview and editing out of portions relating to his observations on Priyanka Gandhi and his purported friendship with Ahmed Patel, a close aide of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
In his letter, Sircar said he has been inundated with non-stop 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 April 27.
Sircar said if an initiative of the PB board to bring in "external professionals" and change the rules regarding appointment of DG`s of Doordarshan and All India Radio had succeeded, "we may not have faced the type of public criticism that a single interview has invited."
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."
Indicating the manner in which the ministry controls the PB, he said: "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."
Sircar said that after the DD team got the interview with Modi, there were concerns that they had not yet managed a counter-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, despite best attempts of DD News," Sircar said in his letter.
Explaining the moves by the PB board aimed at acquiring autonomy, he said: "Another pertinent initiative of the PB Board, i.e, to bring in `external professionals` met with some degree of success, but where the post of Directors General of Doordarshan and AIR are concerned, it did not succeed."
"The Recruitment Rules still ensure that only government and quasi-government persons can occupy the post, which is pegged at approximately Rs.22 lakh per annum against sharply higher market rates. I have tried my best to explain that these need to be reviewed, because times are changing; but I have not succeeded.
"If there had been some degree of fresh thinking in these two proposals, we may not have faced the type of public criticism that a single interview has invited."
He also suggested that the best option now for the News Division is to make all out efforts to seek a balancing interview so that the neutrality of the public broadcaster is not questioned, telecast interviews at the earliest juncture with due publicity and do so without editing.
It would help clear the air and also attract TRPs for DD besides reinforcing neutrality and respect for plurality of opinions, he said.
When contacted, S M Khan, DG News, Doordarshan Khan said that there was no interference from anybody in the telecast of the interview.
"There was no interfernce from anybody. No authority in the ministry or individual was aware of the interview at all. They came to know about it only when it was telecast," he said.
He further clarified that there was no delay in the telecast of the interview as it was recorded on the 26 April and it was telecast on Prime Time on Sunday at 9.30 pm on the 27th and a repeat telecast on Monday, the 28th.
With PTI/IANS inputs