Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s two-year contract with Hindusthan Samachar has drawn severe flak from Opposition parties, who have pointed out the Delhi-based news agency’s long links with right-wing outfits.
Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry that runs All India Radio and Doordarshan. In 2020, Prasar Bharati cancelled its subscription to Press Trust of India (PTI), the non-profit cooperative of Indian newspapers.
According to reports, Prasar Bharati has defended the move, saying PTI was replaced only because the public service broadcaster needed a news wire that could provide information in more than two to three languages. Hindusthan Samachar covers 11.
Also read: DD, AIR most trusted media as they are not in TRP race: Prasar Bharati CEO
However, it is also a fact that Hindusthan Samachar was set up by Shivram Shankar Apte, one of the founders of the RSS-affiliate Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its first general secretary.
“Where do we live? India or North Korea?”
The move by @prasarbharati to make Hindustan Samachar, a news agency with links to Sangh Parivar, the sole news source for @DDNational & @AkashvaniAIR is an attempt to saffronize news and silence dissent. Secular and democratic forces must unite to resist such communal schemes.
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@pinarayivijayan) February 26, 2023
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called it a clear attempt to saffronise news and silence dissent and called for “secular and democratic forces” to “unite to resist such communal schemes”.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury tweeted: “It’s now official! DD & AIR will exclusively broadcast as ‘news’ only the content fed by RSS!”
“Instead of granting autonomy to Prasar Bharati, GoI (Government of India) has decided to bring it under RSS heel,” tweeted Thomas Isaac, a member of the party’s Central Committee.
Hindustan Samachar, controlled by RSS replaces PTI as news agency for Doordarshan and AIR. An exclusive contract has been signed for this purpose by Prasar Bharati with Hindustan Samachar. Instead of granting autonomy to Prasar Bharati GoI has decided to bring it under RSS heel.
— Thomas Isaac (@drthomasisaac) February 26, 2023
Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jawhar Sircar, who was the CEO of Prasar Bharati from 2012 to 2016, wrote, “Finally. Best to merge Prasar Bharati and BJP.”
“Where do we live? India or North Korea?” tweeted Ramshetty Vishnu, state secretary of the Telangana Youth Congress.
A Prasar Bharati official was quoted as saying that Hindusthan Samachar’s contract has merely been renewed and that it was already associated with the ministry since 2020. Other reports suggested Hindusthan Samachar was involved with Prasar Bharati since 2017, when it offered free services. Reportedly, its share of central government advertisements went up after 2014, when the BJP government was formed at the Centre.
(With agency inputs)