Indian Government Examining Doordarshan


New Delhi, India -- Indian Minister of Information and
Broadcasting Arun Jaitley has launched an ambitious plan to revamp Prasar Bharati Corp.
(PBC) in order to infuse the regulator with greater "credibility and

As a first step in this direction, he has established a
three-member committee to recommend ways to improve PBC, a government body set up two
years ago to oversee state broadcaster Doordarshan.

Committee members indicated that Jaitley is looking for
ways to make PBC more competitive with commercial television players. The committee
includes Discovery Channel Asia CEO Kiran Karnik; N.R. Narayana Murthi, chairman of Indian
software company Infoys; and Shunnu Sen, a well regarded marketing consultant who has
worked for firms including Hindustan Lever, the local unit of consumer-products giant
Unilever N.V.

The committee is expected to submit its findings in three

"We need the best of marketing minds," Jaitley
said in a prepared statement. "The viewership of Doordarshan is larger, while its
advertising revenue is lower."

The decision to appoint the committee has helped spark a
political firestorm, as it is concurrent with the firing of two PBC board members:
internationally renowned historian Romilla Thapar and Hindi writer and editor Rajendra

The rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been
uncomfortable with these members. Thapar had been perceived as a left-leaning historian,
while Yadav is an outspoken critic of the BJP government.

"PBC was set up to be an autonomous body, which would
make the erstwhile Doordarshan function along the lines of [the British Broadcasting
Corp.]," Yadav said. "As members of the board, we had demanded transparency in
all its dealings. But from the start, we were hamstrung by the fact that the board was not
given financial control which remained in the hands of the Information and Broadcasting

He also criticized the fact that Doordarshan staffers were
actually employees of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, rather than PBC.

The government has said that two more PBC board members
will leave in 2001.

Discovery's Karnik defended the government's decision to
dismiss the members. He said the Information & Broadcasting Ministry needs a less
antagonistic PBC board.

Opposition parties have criticized the firings, and
described them as an attempt to get rid of "politically inconvenient voices."

In his statement, Jaitley said PBC "does not need
friends or foes of political parties, what it needs its competence, excellence and