Prasar Bharati Was Not Informed About Swearing-In of Fadnavis and Pawar

The national broadcaster's programme guidelines mandate it to cover important government events live, but the need to keep the ceremony under wraps may have resulted in it being kept away.

New Delhi: Prasar Bharati wasn’t asked to cover Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar’s swearing-in event early Saturday morning, according to a report in Economic Times. The national broadcaster is mandated to broadcast the event as part of its programme guidelines.

The duo were sworn in by governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at around 7:50 am on Saturday and the news was broken by ANI, at around 8 am. The news agency was present at the swearing-in ceremony.

According to the Economic Times, Prasar Bharati officials said that DD news, which is responsible for covering government events, was not even informed about the event. The report says that neither DD’s Mumbai news unit nor the Mumbai Doordarshan Kendra were informed about the event. All India Radio was informed at the last minute.

The state’s director of information and public relation department is required to inform the public broadcaster about important events and ensuring their coverage. If the state is under president’s rule, then the governor’s office is supposed to inform Prasar Bharati.

Prasar Bharati’s programme guidelines mandate Doordarshan and AIR to cover about 12 types of events live. These include ceremonies such as Independence Day, Republic Day, cabinet swearing-in, oath-taking ceremonies of the CJI, the President’s address at the national level and state cabinet swearing-in, oath-taking events of governors and chief justices of high courts, joint sessions of state legislatures addressed by governors, relief visits by CMs at the state level.

On Saturday, a DD news bulleting at 8:06 am used ANI visuals, while AIR’s bulletin had the main news but said ‘details awaited’, according to the Economic Times. The DD news correspondent termed the event ‘a shocker that no one was aware of’.

A Prasar Bharati official, on condition of anonymity, told ET that given the event’s importance, it should have been telecast live by Doordarshan with a multi-camera setup. It should also have been covered by AIR with bilingual commentary. “But since everything happened so hurriedly, it is possible that there was no time to inform us and wait till the arrangements,” the official said.

A former official told the newspaper that coverage by Doordarshan would have meant following protocol. This would include mobilising the government’s communication machinery to distribute photographs to press units, inform other channels about free-to-air feed. “It is possible that they wanted minimum publicity till the swearing-in was done,” the official said.

However, the official also stressed that because Prasar Bharati is answerable to parliament, the state administration should have ensured the presence of AIR and DD during the ceremony. “This is also about record keeping,” the official told ET.

In March this year, a controversy erupted over possible violation of the model code of conduct by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he announced that India had successfully tested its anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury had written to the Election Commission saying the speech, which was aired by Doordarshan and All India Radio, violated the model code.

The EC gave a clean chit to the prime minister after DD and AIR said that none of the public broadcasters had recorded the speech and had instead used feed provided by ANI. They also said that the speech had not been broadcast live.

However, one day before the EC announced it had cleared the PM of any violations, The Print reported that it was DD News which recorded the address but without deliberately displaying the logo to keep it out of the Election Commission’s watch.

Even if ANI did record the feed, that the private agency was asked to record an important official address suggests that the PM knew his speech could amount to “publicity regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power”, a violation of the MCC.