“Hindusthan Samachar may take over regional radio news by 2019”

Prasar Bharati shifting its language news broadcasts out of Delhi is part of a plan to hand over radio news broadcasts to an RSS-controlled news agency, alleges Bharatiya Bhasha Samooh

Pramod Pushkarna/National Herald
Pramod Pushkarna/National Herald

NH Political Bureau

The recent move by the NDA Government in having Prasar Bharati shift its language news broadcasts from the national capital to different regions of the country is not just to belittle all national languages, barring Hindi, but is part of a grander plan of handing over all regional radio news broadcasts to Hindusthan Samachar, alleges Bharatiya Bhasha Samooh (BBS), a pressure group launched on Tuesday to push the agenda for providing equality to all languages.

“We suspect the government’s intentions. This plan is linked to the plan of handing over news broadcasts to Hindusthan Samachar, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-controlled news agency,” alleges Deepak Dholakia of BBS at a joint press conference in New Delhi on the occasion of International Mother Language Day on Tuesday. The other organisations included Campaign for Language Equality and Rights (CLEAR) and Maithili Bhojpuri Academy.

“This government has worked to belittle all languages,” says Deepak Dholakia. He alleges that the first step in the NDA government’s strategy of ‘Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan’ has been “to downgrade and remove from the national scene” all the 22 national languages that are given constitutional status in the Eighth Schedule. “When these language radio channels are in the national category, they are in the short wave wherein they could be accessible across continents even. However, when they are moved to the regional channels, they will be on the medium wave category and can be listened to only in a limited region,” he says. “For instance, are Gujaratis or Tamilians or Malayalis just limited to one region?” he asks.

However, this is just one part of the story and Dholakia sees a grander design. He alleges the multilingual news agency, Hindusthan Samachar, was “quietly” given an opportunity to run Hindi and English newsrooms of the News Services division of All India Radio on trial basis for three months from July to October. “There was no competition for such a trial and the trial was conducted without any immediate reason or justification,” he adds.

The agency has already announced it plans to train 2,000 persons in the news making process in all languages over a period of two years, he points out. “We can expect Hindusthan Samachar to take over the entire Radio news in the states before the 2019 General Elections,” he adds.

Though started in 1948, the multilingual news agency, Hindusthan Samachar, was merged with other news agencies after Emergency was declared in 1975, and the combined entity was called Samachar. Though Hindusthan Samachar subsequently recommenced operations, it was shut in 1986, then revived under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government in 2000. At present, it provides news in 14 Indian languages and BJP’s Rajya Sabha member RK Sinha heads its Board of Directors.

The Narendra Modi Government had made subscribing to United News of India (UNI), Press Trust of India (PTI) and Hindustan Samachar (HS) one of the pre-requisites for newspapers desirous of central government’s advertisements. This is as per the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity’s (DAVP) Print Media Advertisement Policy that was effective from June 7, 2016.

On being asked about the RSS links of the news agency in the Rajya Sabha recently, I&B minister Venkaiah Naidu had deftly evaded Janata Dal (United) MP Harivansh’s query by drawing attention to the 977 newspapers published from Delhi and 2,354 in UP, many of them existing on paper. Naidu had quipped: “Hindustan Samachar bahut purana hai aur Hindustani hai” (HS is an old news agency and an Indian news agency at that).

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Published: 22 Feb 2017, 10:00 AM