New Delhi : From controversies over Doordarshan telecasts to new initiatives like Prime Minister’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ on All India Radio (AIR) or ‘Kisan’ channel, 2014 was a mixed bag for Information and Broadcasting Ministry which saw changes at the helm.
The charge of the ministry passed from Congress leader Manish Tewari to BJP’s Prakash Javadekar as the NDA scored a resounding victory in the Lok Sabha elections and then, after a reshuffle, to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley along with Minister of State Rajyavardhan Rathore.
During the Lok Sabha polls, one of the biggest controversies of the year erupted over the editing of a Narendra Modi interview by Doordarshan when he was leading the BJP’s bid to capture power at the Centre.
After certain portions of the interview were not carried, the BJP went on the offensive saying it had been done under Congress pressure while Doordarshan claimed that “there was no deliberate editing or omission of any portion of the interview.”
Then I&B minister Tewari said his ministry maintained an arm’s length relationship with Prasar Bharati. However, after the NDA trounced the UPA in the polls, there was a kind of role reversal with Congress leaders questioning the coverage of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s Vijaya Dashami address by Doordarshan, which was defended by the BJP-led government.
Doordarshan also had to face flak on a number of occasions during the year because of errors that went on air including mispronunciation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s name by a news presenter or when a visual of Manmohan Singh was carried instead of a picture of Modi or on other occasions.
All India Radio (AIR) had its moments when Prime Minister Modi decided to air his views in ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme. The contents of the speeches were widely carried not just by Doordarshan but private radio and TV channels as well.
While much happened, several projects continued to be held up or delayed in 2014.
The Phase III expansion of radio is still awaited though the government has indicated that it intends to hold the auctions before the next budget.
The creation of a Prasar Bharati Recruitment board continues to be held up apparently because of difference between the ministry and the public broadcaster. The ‘Single Window Clearance System’ for film shooting permissions also has not taken off in a major way. Several important positions in Prasar Bharati board and other bodies also have been vacant for quite some time.
2014 was also a year when Justice Markandey Katju, who often stoked controversies with his remarks, completed his tenure as the chairperson of Press Council of India (PCI) and another former Supreme Court judge C K Prasad taking over. Prasar Bharati too got a new chairman in veteran journalist A Surya Prakash.
With Modi firmly in the saddle, the I&B ministry’s emphasis on social media increased. To mark the NDA government’s first month in office, it released on YouTube a five-and-a-half minute video clip.
Similarly a digital version of the annual government of India calendar on the theme – Clean India, Green India – was also launched. The ministry worked on a publicity drive to spread the message of the government’s Swachh Bharat mission.
The year saw Doordarshan trying to reinvent itself with a new look and feel, with fresh content and tagline ‘Doordarshan National – Desh Ka Apna Channel’.
A significant decision taken during the year by the ministry was extending the deadline for the areas which came under Phase III and Phase IV of the digitisation drive to December 31, 2015 and December 31, 2016 respectively.
The ministry justified the move saying it would help in promoting indigenous set top boxes (STBs).
Another important happening in the year was the arrest of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) CEO Rakesh Kumar in connection with a case of alleged bribery.
The broadcasting sector continued to grow in the year and the number of TV channels in the country rose from around 784 last year to 821 by early December 2014.
During the year, the launching of a ‘Kisan TV’ channel dedicated to farmers and agriculture, another channel for the northeast and measures to encourage community radio were proposed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech.