The Information and Broadcasting ministry has responded to allegations that it caused needless expenditure by getting a private company to cover the opening and closing ceremonies of the International Film Festival of India in place of Doordarshan.
It has been alleged by sources in Prasar Bharati that the ministry overlooked Doordarshan’s considerable expertise and experience in awarding the coverage contract to SOL Productions Pvt Ltd, Mumbai.
SOL had presented a bill of Rs 2.92 cr to Doordarshan for arranging the live coverage of the event for Doordarshan. Subsequently, Doordarshan refused to foot the bill and said it will pay only a share of the revenue it earned from the live transmission.
According to media reports, DD officials were miffed that a private company was brought into to facilitate the coverage, which they had always been covered using in-house talent and equipment.
Doordarshan’s refusal to clear the bill led to the intervention of the Information and Broadcasting ministry — which conducted the film festival.
Reports also alleged that following the tussle, the ministry has blocked hundreds of crores of rupees of government support to Prasar Bharati, the parent organization of Doordarshan, leading to a severe financial crisis at the organization.
Replying to queries from members of the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State Rajyavardhan Rathore said the opening and closing ceremonies were managed by private event management agency, as has always been the custom.
He also said that this time, the live TV coverage of the event was also given to a private entity, SOL Productions. He did not specify whether this was the first time that the live TV coverage was handed over to a private company or not, and if so, what the reason for “overlooking” Doordarshan was.
Nevertheless, Rathore said there was no bias or interference in selecting SOL.
“SOL Productions Pvt Ltd., Mumbai was selected by National Film Development Corporation through open tender enquiry on the basis of combined technical score and financial score of those bidders whose technical bids qualified,” he said.
Rathore admitted Doordarshan had refused to pay the Rs 2.92 cr demanded by SOL for making arrangements for live coverage.
“For payment of Rs. 2.92 crore towards multi camera setup for opening and closing ceremony, Prasar Bharati informed that Doordarshan would be paying 50% revenue share from the sponsorship received from broadcasting of events related to IFFI-2017, which includes the opening and closing ceremonies also,” he said.
CONTRACT EMPLOYEES AT PRASAR BHARATI
Rathore also confirmed that the government had asked Prasar Bharati to stop hiring contract employees and consultants as it was doing.
He said Prasar Bharati’s method of hiring contract employees and consultants was deemed non-transparent, and incompatible with Finance Ministry guidelines on the appointment of contract employees.
“.. after receiving a complaint alleging engagement of consultants in Prasar Bharati without assessment of need, formal approval or selection by transparent manner with reference to a set of qualification, skills and experience, this Ministry on 5.2.2018, suggested Prasar Bharati to stop such engagements as also not to grant extension/ renewal to consultants, as it contravenes the order of Department of Expenditure, and to discontinue contracts of other consultants,” he said.
However, said Rathore, the move is unlikely to impact journalists employed by Doordarshan.
Rathore also denied the suggestion that the ministry was trying to get Doordarshan to hire two journalists of its choice. Asked if the ministry had proposed to the Prasar Bharati to hire two journalists with “very high salaries” that were “unprecedented in the history of Prasar Bharati”, Rathore said:
“Government has not given any such proposal to Prasar Bharati to hire two senior journalists.”