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Saturday, May 27, 2017

We are constantly communicating with, listening to people: Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore


DNA's Amrita Nayak Dutta, Rathore talks about the government's outreach programmes, the initiative to take radio to far-flung areas of the country, revamping of Prasar Bharati, and the Central Board of Film Certification's (CBFC) censorship powers.

Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is an extremely busy man these days. The Narendra Modi-led government is gearing up for its third anniversary celebrations and as the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Rathore has a key role to play. He is involved in planning and implementing a series of campaigns and outreach programmes, aimed at highlighting the BJP government's achievements. In an exclusive interview with DNA's Amrita Nayak Dutta, Rathore talks about the government's outreach programmes, the initiative to take radio to far-flung areas of the country, revamping of Prasar Bharati, and the Central Board of Film Certification's (CBFC) censorship powers. Edited excerpts:

What is the government's message to people on its third anniversary? What is the I&B Ministry doing to ensure its reach to the public?
This is a pro-poor, pro-development government. This is also the government, which has, for the first time, created a two-way feedback mechanism to help it develop and deliver the best policies. Our priorities are gaon (village), gareeb (poor), kisan (farmers), mahila (women), and yuva (youth) as they are fundamental to the growth of this nation. Our attempt is to empower them by being responsive to their needs, so that they contribute in the government's policy decisions. At the I&B Ministry, we facilitate the communication of government decisions and schemes, which people can use to their benefit. Each ministry communicates to the people and we adopt a 360 degree approach, while adding on to that communication. We have also adopted new media, including digital cinema, for communication, besides the conventional newspaper and TV. Also, we have revived the age-old method of interpersonal communication, including nukkad natak and other folk forms, to reach out to the country's rural population.

If you were to list the top three achievements of your ministry in the last three years, what would they be?
An increased penetration of FM radio and a major push to the community radio would be one. We have weeded out ghost or irregular newspapers, and created a new marking system and circulation verification procedure for newspapers. We are always coming up with out-of-the-box methods to communicate the government's messages with a 360 degree approach. We are constantly communicating with or listening to people.

Half of the I&B Ministry's meagre budget goes to Prasar Bharati. What is the Ministry doing to bring Doordarshan and All India Radio at par with the private players?
No, we don't have a meagre budget. Whatever is required for communication, we get that. As far as Prasar Bharati is concerned, it is continuously innovating and improving its programmes, while maintaining the role of a public broadcaster. There is a low priority on commercialising it. The world of commercial TV is extremely competitive and the audience has a wide variety to choose from. Despite that, our viewership is quite good. I can say we have one of the most reputed news channels (DD News) and it is also available on IT platforms. Our radio is unmatched in its quality and reach.

With the Ministry funding Prasar Bharati completely, what do you have to say about the public broadcaster's autonomy?
Except for the funding, Prasar Bharati is entirely independent. The funding, as per the Parliament's decision, will continue till 2019.

What is the government's stand on allowing news broadcast on private FM channels?
The matter is sub-judice. I wouldn't want to comment on that.

You have been quite vocal about chopping off CBFC's censorship powers. There has not been much movement on that front, however, despite the Shyam Benegal committee recommending the same.
We are of the view that the certification process must keep pace with the changing times. Once a certification has been decided, the viewers are mature enough to choose the films that they see. For this purpose, there is a robust system in place with multiple screening committees of CBFC and finally an appellate body (FCAT) for redressal. Currently, all film certification issues are resolved at the level of FCAT. To make things transparent and efficient, we have introduced an online certification process for CBFC. We are actively working on the recommendations received from the Mudgal and Benegal committees.

Talking about censorship, both committees have recommended restrictions on free speech as specified in the Constitution; section 19 (2) must apply to the films as well. Both bodies work as per the rules framed for them. We are in the process of amending those rules. At some point, we might amend the Cinematograph Act as well. Amending the rules is important.

In the wake up of fresh violence in conflict-hit areas, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, how is the government reaching out to the locals there?
We are enhancing the quality of our programmes in Kashmir. We are also increasing the number of DD channels in Northeast. We are also increasing the number of radio transmitters in Kashmir and border areas, and also in Left Wing Extremism-hit areas. Special privileges have been extended to private FM stations in the Northeast, such as reduced license fees and stations beyond the cap. We have given a big boost to community radios in the Northeast by increasing the subsidy to 90 per cent.

The second batch of auctions of private FM Radio Phase III received a lukewarm response. What are the plans for the future?
When you auction public properties, you have to be very transparent in valuation. Being carried out in public domain, market forces affect all auctions. We will reassess and re-evaluate them based on the market responses. Our endeavour is not commercial gain, but maximising the reach of radio and delivery of a good service.


Forwarded By:Jainender Nigam,PB Newsdesk & Social Media,news.prasarbharati@gmail.com

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