In the wake of a massive controversy over Narendra Modi's interview to Doordarshan, Prasar Bharati today distanced itself from the row saying it was completely left to the editorial team of DD News to go ahead and telecast it.
Jawhar Sircar, CEO of Prasar Bharati, wrote to members of the Prasar Bharati board informing them about the circumstances surrounding the interview "as I see them".
He has claimed that a "shadow" still looms over government servants posted at DD which is leading to lack of credibility of the public broadcaster.
Sircar said questions have been raised in the public domain about the impartiality and the motives of the public broadcaster and told the members of the resolutions of the PB board seeking more operational autonomy from the Information and Broadcasting ministry which it did not get.
"A young minister didn't give greater autonomy," he has reportedly written in his letter to the Prasar Bharati Board
In a way, therefore, he said the ministry lost an opportunity to convince a young minister, an obvious reference to Manish Tewari, to break this long traditional linkage between the ministry and the News Division which has continued unabated even after PB was born and assigned its distinct role in 1997.
He also added that "There was no deliberate editing or omission of any portion of the interview. Wherever editing was done, it was for technical reasons and during post-production. There was no interference or control from any authority in the entire process."
The letter comes in the midst of a raging controversy over the delay in the telecast of the Modi's interview and editing out of portions relating to his observations on Priyanka Gandhi and his purported friendship with Ahmed Patel, a close aide of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Sircar said if an initiative of the PB board to bring in "external professionals" and change the rules regarding appointment of DG's of Doordarshan and All India Radio had succeeded, "we may not have faced the type of public criticism that a single interview has invited."
About the interview being withheld, Sircar said he was told by DG News of Doordarshan on April 27 afternoon, the day after the interview was done, that his team was on the job and that it would be telecast soon.
"But many of us felt that the subject was 'too current' to hold on and further delays could only cause unnecessary controversies.
"I gave them the 'strength' and it appears that while portions critical of Doordarshan were telecast, certain comments on other personalities were apparently edited," he said enclosing a statement issued by DG News of Doordarshan on the issue last night.
In spite of his complaint about the lack of autonomy, the CEO said he must admit that he had found enough cooperation from the News Division team, over which PB has no real powers.
He offered to lay some of these issues before the board meeting in June hoping that it would convince the authorities to allow PB to function with greater autonomy and professional competence.
He also suggested that the best option now for the News Division is to make all out efforts to seek a balancing interview so that the neutrality of the public broadcaster is not questioned, telecast interviews at the earliest juncture with due publicity and do so without editing.
It would help clear the air and also attract TRPs for DD besides reinforcing neutrality and respect for plurality of opinions, he said.
Meanwhile, Doordarshan News interviewer Ashok Srivastav, clarified his stand saying, "I never wanted to create storm I just tried to do my job as a professional journalist."
Srivastav had in his earlier tweets had said that the full interview should have been aired. "Original interview was 56 minutes but I got half an hour chunk. We telecast 34 minutes. Professionally I feel we should have telecast full version. I also feel that the portion which is important shouldn't edited. I am not final authority."
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