Prasar Bharati (PB) has clarified that the Mail Today story – ‘Scam stink as DD to hire DTH it could have bought’ published on Monday – was “factually incorrect, conjectural, malicious and defamatory”.
PB board officer on special duty (OSD), Dhiranjan Malvey said in his written rebuttal that the broadcaster decided to hire facilities for increasing the capacity of Doordarshan’s DTH platform to 150 channels as it would not be possible to procure equipment and make it functional within a time-frame.
The PB official said under the 11th five-year plan, the government had allocated an amount to upgrade the free DTH facility on Doordarshan by increasing the number of channels offered from 59 to 97. While contending that increasing the capacity to 97 would not have served the “larger public purpose”, Malvey pointed out that it was not a Cabinet decision.
He said: “For each month that the channel capacity augmentation is delayed, PB would lose more than Rs. 22 crore and the public would be forced to subscribe to the pay platform.”
The OSD also raised an objection to the figure of Rs. 200 crore mentioned in the story.
The amount was meant to underline the fact that hiring of DTH facilities would cost much more than the Rs. 75.43 crore allocated by the government, including to acquire the enhanced assets and pay the salary of extra employees. PB clarified that the figure was conjectural as it would earn revenue to the tune of Rs. 1,350 crore. Malvey said the board’s decision on upgrading the DTH platform was unanimous and member finance A.K. Jain as well as member personnel Shiva Kumar had also approved the move. Furthermore, Malvey, in his letter, objected to an “adverse comment” in the story regarding the procurement of HD camcorders by PB through the propriety article certificate (PAC) route.
He said a high-level committee approved it after evaluating “HD recording systems offered by Sony, Panasonic, Thomson, Grass Valley, JVC and Ikegami”. Since the camcorders were meant to be propriety in nature, the PAC route was taken, he claimed.
He said the story gave the impression that the employees who objected to the decision were punished by being transferred. PB claimed that more than 125 employees were shunted out for administrative reasons, including union officebearers who were with it for more than eight years.
YATISH YADAV REPLIES
I stand by the story, which was sourced from government documents and verified by officials of Prasar Bharati. The denial by PB is nothing but a play of words and cites notional figures that have not been backed by material evidence.
In fact, the news report carried a detailed version of officiating CEO Rajiv Takru on the serious allegations levelled against the public broadcaster’s controversial decisions on the DTH platform of Doordarshan and the purchase of HD camcorders without a tender.
In his clarification also, Malvey accepts the basic fact mentioned in the story that the PB board took a view overruling the Union government’s decision of acquiring equipment and other facilities to upgrade the DTH platform.
For the upgrade, the government had earmarked a budget of Rs. 75.43 crore under the 11th plan which was to be used in three years, beginning 2010.
Malvey says the Cabinet did not okay the DTH upgrade, but the I&B ministry – through an August 17, 2010, letter addressed to the PB giving the government direction on the 11th plan scheme allocation – clearly asked the broadcaster to give a monthly report on the implementation of the issue to the Cabinet secretariat through the ministry. This was stated in the news report along with Takru’s response that the government and Cabinet were intimated about the board’s decision.
The PB board OSD has also come up with a hypothetical proposition that the broadcaster would lose Rs. 22 crore every month for the delay in augmentation of channel capacity.
Strangely, the agenda paper of the PB board meeting, held on June 7, 2011, is silent on the technology and financial justification for hiring equipment.
Besides, such an explanation was not given to the reporter, who had sought a point-by-point response for the story. PB questioned the figure of the likely loss owing to the broadcaster’s hiring of facilities that was quoted in the story.
It, however, failed to give an account of how much it would cost to hire the DTH platform.
This indicates that PB itself is not sure about the matter and the clarification conveniently only divulges that it is preparing an RFP to hire equipment that would be absorbed by the broadcaster. Otherwise, too, the story had Takru’s version, saying that the loss figure quoted was without any basis.
On the OSD’s contention that the board’s decision was unanimous, I stand by the fact that A.K. Jain and Shiva Kumar had not endorsed the hiring proposal as they found it a bad financial decision and had communicated their objections to seniors.
Malvey, in his letter, has also objected to the “adverse comment” in the story regarding the procurement of HD camcorders by PB through the PAC route. Significantly, Malvey himself had struck a note of caution against the purchase in a file noting on the subject on June 24.
The file noting, carrying Malvey’s signature, clearly questions the decision on several counts, including on buying camcorders directly from Sun Broadcast Equipment Pvt Ltd. Malvey recorded his comment by saying that the broadcaster should have instead bought camcorders directly from the country representatives of Sony.
Surprisingly, CEO Takru held a meeting on pending proposals, in his chamber on June 10 this year, where the HD camcorder issue was also taken up.
On the transfer of employees, the charge is based on the reporter’s interview with a number of union leaders. Here, too, the reporter has played it fair by incorporating the officiating CEO’s version in the story.
Source: India Today