IFWJ Writes to Prime Minister for Scrapping PIB, RNI, DAVP and Press Council of India

Date: 04.07.2019

Shri Narendra Modi

Prime Minister of India

Sir,

We wish to draw your attention towards some of the departments of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have outlived their utility and have thus become outdated and redundant in the first quarter of the 21st century. They are the Press Information Bureau, the DAVP, the RNI and the Press Council of India. Frankly speaking, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting itself has become irrelevant. It was conceived to have this ministry to decide the Media Policy in Independent India but now when the Media is not confined to the print medium and TV channels only but has gone much beyond our imaginations. There is, therefore, no point in retaining these dead bodies. A huge amount of money is spent year after year from the public exchequer for the survival and maintenance of these departments. Let us come one by one about each department:

Press Information Bureau

It is a nodal agency of the Government of India, which has a huge staff, which is absolutely a big burden on the government and thereby on the public. Nobody has been able to understand that what has been its role particularly after the explosion of media. With the advent of the internet and live streaming of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and a fairly good amount of transparency which have been brought in different ministries and departments, nobody knows what the role of the PIB is? Except having a small unit of the PIB, which can provide the facilities of accreditation etc. to journalists covering different beats, the PIB has hardly any role to play when the modern information technology has overtaken almost all spheres of life. Therefore, except having a skeleton staff or unit which should be well equipped with the modern technology, it should be dispensed with.

As a matter of fact, the Information Ministry itself has got no relevance in the modern era. It was useful during the second world war when the Britishers were using censorship as a tool to stave off the adverse publicity. The Information Ministry was designed in a manner which was supposed to project or highlight the positive side of the government and conceal the negative side. Now that concept has got completely changed, not because of the change in the human behaviour, which would always like to reveal only such things as will throw the good light on its positive points, but because of the technology which has compelled everyone to be transparent.

Directorate of Audio-Video Publicity (DAVP)

As its name suggests, it is meant for publicising the plans, programmes and projects of the government among the general public through different mediums or media. However, this has now been reduced to be a centre of releasing the advertisements to the different media houses after fixing the rates of the advertisements. Speak to anybody who has got any connection with the media will vouchsafe the fact that it is stinking with the corruption. The rates of the advertisements are fixed by offering the bribes to the officers and advertisements are released mostly through the brokers and touts, who take cuts from the media houses and their owners. This practice forces many media organisations to inflate their readership or viewership to get higher rates of advertisements. In this process, the money changes hands through middlemen and women who manage the show between the corrupt media owners and more corrupt officials of the DAVP.

In this era of the technological revolution, the responsibility of releasing advertisements can be effectively handled by the PROs of different departments or any other officer attached to different ministries. The DAVP in fact, encourages the corruption, what to say curbing the corruption. Even otherwise also, it is a relic of the second world war which was constituted by the British Government for tackling the rumour mongering, putting messages about blackouts and handling the recruitments to the Armed Forces etc. Now it has practically no role to play and yet a heavy department of the DAVP is maintained which is neither liked nor loved by anybody. In fact, it is one of the most hated departments of the Government of India, where any file does not move without greasing the palms of the concerned babus. Now in this era and time, there is no need for any nodal agency for the distribution of the advertisements to the media houses, which can be done by the concerned departments and ministries themselves as per their requirements. This will certainly save the massive amount of the taxpayers’ money which goes down the drain for retaining the DAVP.

Registrar for Newspapers in India (RNI)

What is true about the DAVP and PIB is truer about the RNI. One fails to understand why the Registrar for Newspapers in India is maintained at all, even after more than seventy years of the Independence of the country. The purpose of the RNI, which is commonly understood, is to maintain the register of the newspapers, whose titles have been cleared by it. Now all the titles of the newspapers can be uploaded on the website, alphabetically and language-wise, which will facilitate anybody across the country to see and find out the availability of the titles and then he or she can opt for any other title, which has not been blocked. There is no need for obtaining any clearance from the RNI. If the government feels that some sort of licence for the publication for the newspapers/magazine/periodically is to be given, it can be managed by a small group of five-six persons from a small office, which should be fully equipped with modern technology and internet etc. The help of artificial intelligence can also be availed in this regard.

Press Council

The Press Council is a statutory body, which is practically of no use in the present times. The world of media is not confined only to the print medium, but it has extended beyond audio-visual and electronic medium. While social media has made huge inroads in public life it has also wrought havoc in the society. It is mostly rumoured centric medium but has a very strong effect. Therefore, some regulatory measures must be adopted before it could bring more damage and anarchy. This is possible when the Press Council is converted into a Media Council, where the representatives of different media should be taken on board. There is no need to have a retired Supreme Court Judge to be its Chairperson because most of the Supreme Court Judges consider themselves to be on the high pulpit with the absolute right to pontificate. The fact is most of the Judges of the Supreme Court even after retirement they refuse to learn about the changes in the media. Therefore, a person having good experience in the media and the law should be made its Chairperson and the huge expenditure which is made to retain this white elephant that is called the Press Council can be saved to be used for the better training and orientation of the young journalists.

We in the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ) feel that the government must scrap all such departments which have become not only redundant and useless in the present circumstances but create hurdles in the growth of free and responsible media. The money saved by winding up of these departments or by pruning them to the bare minimum can be utilised for other developmental work.

We hope that your government will consider it seriously and take decision in this regard.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

Parmanand Pandey

Secretary-General, IFWJ



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