| 22 Feb 2024
Jawhar Sircar sweeps over Public Broadcasters session at FICCI 2015

MUMBAI:Prasar Bharati does not believe in monopoly, says Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar, which is why he is planning to auction 15 channels. He also added that the Worli tower is currently beaming digital transmission, and that two of the 20 channels are in use at the moment. Sircar also stated that they will auction the remaining 15.

He revealed this during a FICCI Frames 2015 session titled ‘India 2015: Role of the Public Service Broadcaster and lessons from the World’. The session also included BBC Global News CEO Jim Egan; ABU secretary general Javed Mottaghi and VGTRK digital television Russia Dy CEO Ayuna Badmeva. Pranjal Sharma, former advisor of Prasar Bharati, and now FICCI advisor and host of Zee Network’s ‘The Appoinment’, who moderated the panel, questioned Sircar and the other panelists on the myths and reality surrounding public broadcasters as a whole.

Sircar dealt with the questions thrown at him with utmost research. He said that content is a factor of creativity and funding, and praised BBC for being a role model. He said, "Where the BBC could use 75 per cent of its funding on content, India could use only 10 per cent," he said.  

He also stated that Prasar Bharati spends only 40 cents per person on creating content whereas other public broadcasters spend a good sum on content. He went on to reveal that his one decision, which was to have a creative expert in his team, raised many eyebrows. "63 questions were raised by the Ministry," he claimed.

Badmeva stated that as a Public Broadcaster, building infrastructure is the key task which could be utilised by citizens of the country or region.

Egan, who runs one of the most successful Public Broadcasters, stressed the idea of universality in content. He said that the role of public broadcaster is to "make the good popular and make the popular good."

"Public is the first word of Public Broadcaster, so it should cover the society," Mottaghi said. He emphasised that programmes should be consumer-oriented and cater to the needs of larger audiences.

Commenting on the question, if the national level audience is important than the international level, Egan said that the domestic audience is important, but at the same time, a broadcaster should also cater to an international audience. He added that the BBC has around 270 million audiences outside the United Kingdom.

Mottaghi emphasised that pubcasters should work towards winning the trust of their audiences, which is crucial. He offered the example of Australia and how its pubcaster functions, to which Sircar added his understanding about Korean and Japanese pubcasters. He stated that those pubcasters were funded without much hurdle, whereas in India it is different. Sircar also stated that 95 per cent of the 16 to 18 hundred crores that Prasar Bharati goes towards expenses.

When questioned about private and public partnership, Mottaghi maintained that education, health and farming related programming and content will always be aired by the Public Broadcaster, and affirmed that it will continue to air such content, come what may.
Egan also commented on the recent ban of ‘India’s Daughter’, stating that it is a program that needs to be seen. Although the BBC produced and co-produced good quality content, he added that there are other public broadcasters that make quality content. He mentioned that stories that are not touched should be focused on.

Sircar bragged that the pubcaster in India reaches out to regions that private sectors fear or fail to step foot in. He believes that no one can hold the equilibrium the way the pubcaster does in regions like the North-east and others.

He was quizzed by the attendees on various topics, and revealed during one of the answers that there is a sense of frustration. He also proudly claimed that he has been at the forefront of expressing his discomfort to various authorities.

In terms of future plans, Sircar stated that he wants to make Freedish available to consumers and revealed his willingness to add private channels to it. Additionally, he also hopes to make FM stations available on handsets within a year.