By Vasudha Venugopal, ET Bureau | 13 Aug, 2015, 12.48AM IST
Top sources at Prasar Bharti and Ministry for Information & Broadcasting (MIB) told ET that AIR director-general (news) Mohan Chandak was pulled up by MIB officials on Tuesday as well as Wednesday for clearing four news items the government found unsuitable, including the Guild’s criticism of the government’s actions against the channels.
AIR’s coverage of Manipur chief minister Ibobi Singh‘s criticism of the Centre’s peace deal with Naga insurgents, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar‘s reference to former PM AB Vajpayee‘s advice to then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi on Rajdharma, and criticism by Kumar and Lalu Yadav of Modi’s speech last week in Gaya, has also displeased the centre. Prasar Bharti chairperson A Surya Prakash and CEO Jawhar Sircar refused to comment for this story but ET learns that two AIR editors could face action soon. The reports in question were part of hourly news bulletins in Hindi and English on Sunday and Monday. Chandak too refused to comment for this story.
According to officials, Chandak has been asked to give an explanation and the ministry is now mulling action against the team that cleared the news items. “This is negligence. We have asked them to respond with facts and details on how they choose to present some issues over others,” said an MIB official. Ministry officials said they were particularly upset with the way AIR was presenting news that was often biased and critical of the central government. He added that I&B officials will meet officials of Prasar Bharti – an autonomous body which runs Doordarshan and AIR – this week to ensure “synchronization between media units and better presentation of news.”
The AIR news on Sunday morning had reported the Editors Guild’s comments on the showcause notices issued to the TV channels. It said the Guild had called the move “shocking and had called for immediate withdrawal of notices.” The Guild has said that Cable TV regulations were never meant to stop free and vigorous discussion of matters of public interest however disagreeable the content might be to the government. On Sunday, as part of its hourly news at 8 a.m., AIR also carried a news item on Nitish Kumar’s speech in which he mentioned former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee reminding the then Gujarat CM Modi of his Rajdharma in the context of the 2002 riots. The broadcaster had also reported Nitish Kumar’s comments on Modi, including one alleging that the Centre was ignoring Bihar.
The other AIR news items that has upset the ministry was a 15-second report on how the Manipur CM Ibobi Singh, along with his counterparts in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, had protested over not being consulted in the Naga peace process by the Centre, and Nitish Kumar voicing displeasure over the appointment of senior BJP leader Ram Nath Kovind as Governor of Bihar.