Why Doordarshan and AIR have lost their mojo

While the media-scape has changed from a single broadcaster to over 800 TV channels and over 500 FM radio stations, there are several other reasons why DD and AIR have lost their charm

Ashutosh Sharma

“At the time of my engagement, my would be mother-in-law was opposed to the idea of marrying her daughter off to me. We had to do a lot of explaining to convince her that I was the most suitable Mr Right for her daughter. Eventually she conceded, and I got married about 22 years ago. She kept asking me regularly if I would ever get a hike in her lifetime? In the later years, though her question changed to ‘what kind of job is this, you haven’t got a single promotion thus far?’ but my reply always remained the same, ‘very soon, may be next year.’ She died disappointed last year,” recalled a Programme Officer at DD National in an interaction with this reporter.

Both the wings of Prasar Bharati Corporation - Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR) - are manned by tens of thousands of disgruntled employees like him who are stagnant even after 30 years of service. “We are like milestones, we remain rooted at the same place where we were planted at the time of our recruitment,” he remarked.

“More than 98 per cent posts are vacant in the professional programme service of AIR and DD called Indian Broadcasting (Programme) Service (IBPS),” sources said and added, “Though DD has more than 14000 employees, its core activity personnel (programming) constitutes only 15 per cent of the total work force.”

They know nothing of content generation, editing and dubbing as they come from technical background and not cultural or academic background,” he lamented, adding “for several positions the new recruitment is being made on contractual basis, which can’t ensure content quality.”

IBPS rules, according to sources, have little or no relevance for Prasar Bharati Corporation which is deliberately circumventing laid down procedures to surreptitiously accommodate non-professionals who have no idea of programme production, programme management and programme administration, destroying the fabric of AIR and DD.

Former Station Director, All India Radio Jammu, Vijay Singh Sambyal, was appointed as senior Programme Executive after he topped UPSC exam in 1986. Ironically, he retired in July 2016 from AIR but without any monetary benefits of the promotion. “I was ‘promoted’ as assistant director in 2003 in New Delhi and then director at AIR in 2014 in Jammu but I got these promotions only on ad-hoc basis. Since 1991 there has been no meetings of the Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC),” he said, adding that he along with many others like him have moved the court now. “Prasar Bharati has destroyed the DD and AIR. Neither it is holding DPCs not doing any fresh recruitments.”

“While senior employees have been deprived of their dues for decades, officials from other services such as Indian Defence Estate Services, Indian Ordinance Factory Services, Indian Information Services, Central Secretariat Services and Indian Revenue Services are being brought on deputation basis to hold key positions in Prasar Bharati. They know nothing of content generation, editing and dubbing as they come from technical background and not cultural or academic background,” he lamented, adding “for several positions the new recruitment is being made on contractual basis, which can’t ensure content quality.”

A member of Programme Staff Association, AIR, told National Herald that the association has been fighting for constitution of DPC for the past several years but to no avail. “Prasar Bharati has not promoted anyone despite an order by the principal bench of Central Administrative Tribunal in 2002. More than 14 years after the case was filed, the applicants have still not tasted the fruit of the judgment,” he said and added, “Now we have requested a contempt proceeding against secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Secretary Union Public Service Commission, CEO Prasar Bharati and Director General AIR. We have filed a fresh petition in the tribunal that the case be heard on priority basis as every month as the applicants are superannuating without service benefits almost every month.”

Given the official apathy, the content creators have been holding demonstration at all the stations of AIR and DD across the country. “The tipping point has been a recent posting of a Deputy Director General (Engineering) at DD Kendra Thiruvananthapuram against the post of DDG (Programme) which means that the senior most programme official at DD Thiruvananthapuram, with 34 year experience in programme production and management is required to take orders from a person who till recently was DDG (E). This DDG (E) was transferred to DD Kendra Chennai and relieved from DDK Thiruvananthapuram on July 6,” said SKS Tripathi, convenor Joint Action Forum of AIR and DD Programme Professionals, which is spearheading the agitation.

He asked: “Will they post any programme official against an Engineering position? Is there any such case across the Kendras or Directorates of Prasar Bharati?”

Stressing that if the ongoing policy impasse that has crippled the system is allowed to continue, both the prestigious organisations will have an untimely demise, Tripathi said, “Both AIR and DD are reeling under the shortage of senior programme officers. Over 1000 posts of IBPS are lying vacant against the sanctioned 1038 posts in both the organisations. IBPS cadre officers are non-existent at the level of Deputy Director, Director and DDG whereas at the top Additional Director General rank there are only two officers from this cadre and remaining positions have been handed over to employees from allied services.”

Pertinently, as per the vacancy notice for deputation and IBPS recruitment rules, an experience of 17 years in the field of art, culture, education, publicity, production of programmes is required to be considered for the post of ADG Programme. “Obviously people being brought from other cadres and services have no experience in these fields and have been hand-picked at the whims and fancies of the top management of Prasar Bharati. Here these ex-cadre officers not only enjoy higher status but also get deputation allowance to which they are not entitled as their selection is neither as per rules nor as per the vacancy notice,” Tripathi claimed.

“DD and AIR stations are mostly headed by officers from the Engineering wing while content and programme responsibilities are the domains of IBPS cadre officers. Most of these posts are increasingly being occupied by other services with less exposure in programming and related services which ultimately result into loss of viewership and revenue for the public broadcasters,” he elaborated, adding that out of about 24000 people working in Prasar Bharati only 15% are from the programme side.

Many a times, comparisons are drawn between DD and BBC. But many senior Programme Executive shared with National Herald as to why the National Channel can’t become BBC unless some concrete steps are taken.

“While DD spends around ₹200 crore for 67 stations for content creation, a private channel spends ₹300 to 550 crore for the same. But the BBC spends around ₹14,000 crore annually for the same purpose,” they said, adding that “BBC spends more than 33% of its total budget (41,457 crore) on programming while DD, the only public broadcaster TV Channel in the country, allocates only 11% of the total budget of ₹2446 crore to programming.

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