Prasar Bharati is the public broadcast corporation of India, comprising Doordarshan, the public television network, and All India Radio (AIR), the public radio chain. Doordarshan runs a wide network of channels, including nationwide, regional, state and city-focused ones. AIR has a network of nearly 470 radio stations operating across India.

Media assets

Television: (Doordarshan): National- DD National, DD News, DD India, DD Sports, DD Bharati, DD Kissan, DD Urdu, DD Retro; Regional- DD Arun Prabha, DD Bangla, DD Bihar, DD Chandana, DD Girnar, DD Madhya Pradesh, DD Malayalam, DD North East, DD Odia, DD Podhigai, DD Punjabi, DD Rajasthan, DD Sahyadri, DD Saptagiri, DD Uttar Pradesh, DD Yadagiri, DD Kashir; State- DD Chhattisgarh, DD Panaji, DD Haryana, DD Himachal Pradesh, DD Jharkhand, DD Manipur, DD Meghalaya, DD Mizoram, DD Nagaland, DD Tripura, DD Uttarakhand; City- DD Andaman and Nicobar, DD Chandigarh, DD Dadra and Nagar Haveli, DD Daman and Diu, DD Delhi, DD Lakshadweep, DD Pondicherry; Satellite- DD India;

Radio: (All India Radio, AIR) (469 radio stations)

State Media Matrix Typology: State-Controlled (SC)

Ownership and governance

Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body that was established through the Prasar Bharati Act of 1990. The legal provisions put forward by this act didn’t become effective until 1997. Before the act’s provisions came into force, the company’s media operated as divisions of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Since 1997, Prasar Bharati has been in theory autonomous and calls itself “public media”, but the ministry still has discretionary power to influence the broadcaster’s operations.

The main governing structure of Prasar Bharati is the company’s board that consists of 15 members. The President of India appoints 10 of the members of the board, including the chair. The five exceptions are the ex officio director generals of AIR and Doordarshan, the representative of the ministry of information and  broadcasting named by the ministry’s high officials and two representatives of the Prasar Bharati’s staff appointed by the station’s employees.

Source of funding and budget

In the fiscal year ending 31 March 2019, Prasar Bharati reported income of INR 49.5bn (US$ 711m). State grants and subsidies accounted for nearly 61% of that. Commercial revenues represented the second largest source of funding, accounting for over 24% of the total budget, with the rest generated through license fees (paid by households) and other forms of income.

In the fiscal year 2021-2022, Prasar Bharati generated some INR 13.5bn (US$ 168m) in commercial revenues, a 13% year-on-year increase, according to a report from Hindustan Times. It received a state grant worth INR 27.6 (US$345m), according to The Economic Times. In February 2023, the government announced that it has approved a state subsidy of INR 28m for the following fiscal year.

Editorial independence

In spite of the government’s attempt to give Prasar Bharati autonomy through a legal act (that took effect in 1997), the broadcaster is far from achieving editorial independence. First of all, the law still allows the central government to “issue” various “directions” to the corporation “as it may think necessary in the interests of the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India or the security of the State or preservation of public order requiring it not to make a broadcast on a matter specified in the direction or to make a broadcast on any matter of public importance specified in the direction.”

The control of the broadcaster’s editorial affairs is mainly ensured through the politicization of both the process of appointing the outlet’s governing structure and the hiring of journalists in the broadcaster’s news division. Often, journalists hired to work for DD News channel have connections with members of congress or other officials, according to local journalists and experts.

A report part of the Media Influence Matrix project run by Marius Dragomir in 2020 stated: “The Corporation lacks editorial freedom promised to it via the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act of 1990. This has led to the Corporation repeatedly being used for self-aggrandizing publicity by successive governments, besides giving preferential airtime to ruling governments and blacking out any criticism towards them.”

Examples of incidents that illustrate the lack of editorial independence and the pro-government bias in the broadcaster’s newscasts have abounded in recent years.

There are several domestic documents that guide Prasar Bharati’s activity. One is the Citizen’s Charter (one for each Doordarshan and AIR) that lists a series of commitments that the broadcasters make to their citizens (related to the type of programs, etc.). These documents, however, do not put forward any provisions that establish the editorial independence of the broadcaster.

The company also has a so-called Vigilance Wing that receives complaints about the broadcaster’s staff, however, they’re only focused on acts of corruption within the institution.

The broadcaster has the office of the so-called Independent External Monitor. However, its tasks are related only to supervising that procurement processes are legally run and have nothing to do with the broadcaster’s editorial independence.

September 2023