New Delhi : Faceoff between Prasar Bharati and MIB was openly exposed the on-going tussle between the ministry and Public Broadcasting Corporation as the Information and Broadcasting ministry has sought a report from Prasar Bharati on decisions relating to Amitabh Bachchan’s promotional campaign for Doordarshan(DD) Kisan channel to clear the “confusion” over the issue of payments to the superstar.
The ministry has written to the Public Broadcaster after reports appeared claiming that Rs 6.31 crore was the price that Doordarshan was paying for the actor’s campaign. However, questions over the matter arose after Bachchan denied having received any payment and declared that he was doing it “pro bono”.
“The ministry wants to know, the process through which the decision was taken and whether due diligence was done,” a senior ministry official said today.
Prasar Bharati sources, when asked about the ministry decision to seek a report, however, said that a report may be sent to the Board of the public broadcaster first which would then take a call on the future course to be adopted.
Sources said that Additional Secretary in the Ministry J S Mathur, who is a member of the Prasar Bharati Board, in an email to CEO Jawhar Sircar raised questions about the processes followed.
Mathur has written that “bypassing the (Internal Finance Division(IFD) of Prasar Bharati, the contracted amount of Rs 8 plus crore has been reportedly released to the Ad agency through some procedure without requisite approvals at Prasar Bharati level.”
Mathur emphasised that no contract proposal for publicity of DD Kisan channel with the said advertising firm was discussed or approved at the Prasar Bharati board meeting.
“The matter requires to be seriously looked into immediately and responsibility fixed to ensure that all matters in DD Kisan channel and Doordarshan remain absolutely above board,” Mathur said in his email.
Meanwhile, a company spokesperson for Lintas, the advertising agency said that DD Kisan had formally authorised them on 31st March 2015 to negotiate on their behalf with Bachchan’s office.
“This was gone about with utmost transparency amongst all three parties involved. After much negotiation, Mr.Bachchan’s office on 12.05.15, sent communication to Lintas on the fee approval. Post receipt of this communication from Mr. Bachchan’s office, we sent the necessary paperwork to DD Kisan who then went ahead with the processing and release of the payment to Lintas,” the company said.
However, on 20th July, the agency was informed by Bachchan’s office that after reviewing the ‘work-in-progress contract’, the actor had taken a decision that he would not charge any fee on issues involving social and those in the best interest of the nation. ” … In light of yesterday’s development, we have initiated the process of refund ( which will be concluded today ) to our client, DD Kisan,” said the spokesperson., adding that payment was pending to Bachchan.
Officials at the ministry of I&B and the Prasar Bharti board said they had any knowledge about the contract between DD Kisan with Bachchan and that it was not approved by the board.
Ministry officials said the financial details of the contract and celebrity endorsement naming Amitabh Bachchan were listed as a “last minute agenda” on the 26th March Prasar Bharti board meeting and it was not approved by the member of finance in the board or by ministry representatives.
It is understood that J.S. Mathur Additional Secretary, I&B ministry who is also on the board of Prasar Bharti has conveyed to MoS(I & B) Rajyavardhan Rathore that the matter requires to be seriously looked into immediately. “The contracted amount of Rs 8 plus Crore has reportedly been released to the Ad agency through some procedure without requisite approvals at Prasar Bharati level,” he has said in his correspondence, adding, “No contract proposal for publicity of Kisan Channel ,with the advertising firm for celebrity endorsement with Amitabh Bachhan or any other was put up ,discussed or approved at the said or another Board meeting.”
Minister Arun Jaitley is learnt to have asked for a thorough inquiry into the matter. CEO Prasar Bharti Jawhar Sircar said it was just a roll out campaign and was entirely run by the officials in charge of DD Kisan. “I was not involved in it but we are trying to find out,” he said.
The sequences of events and related blame games, followed by allegation of bypassed procedures exposes the on-going tussle between the top officials of Information and Broadcasting Ministry and Prasar Bharati.