Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What lies beneath -beneath that bright blue turban? Why, another electric idea!

Note -an important update below the fold:
When conservative columnist Joshua Livestro was confronted with censorship at the Dutch public broadcasting corporation, he didn’t get mad – he got even.

Another bolt from
under that blue.
Caricature from
Cox & Forkum.

What exactly goes on beneath that turban? What sparks fly in that head that belongs to Manmohan Singh? How many powerful thought-bombs keep going ka-boom! in that hyperactive brain -since he and his government keep coming out with one electric idea after the other?

If it's not Arjun Singh who thought of the super-original idea of ever more quotas then it is Priya Praneshwari Das Munshi "who has said he sometimes stays up late to monitor television content", so that he could find 'objectionable' content and, presumably, ban channels. (via Great Bong)

Now, out of the blue (pun intended!), this - You may now need licence to own TV !

You may now need licence to own TV

You do not watch Doordarshan but may soon have to pay a one-time licence fee for the TV you own and an additional tax on any new TV you buy in the future. Why? To support Prasar Bharati Corporation and its employees.

On Wednesday, the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Prasar Bharati (PB) is likely to decide on a new tax on each television set sold in the country. The GoM has two options: a 5 per cent tax or a 10 per cent one. A 10 per cent levy will fetch Prasar Bharati Corporation Rs 890 crore every year.

The GoM will also decide on a proposal to levy a licence fee on broadcast receivers — television and radio set owners.

Television channels will have to pay a ‘public service broadcast fee’ to PB. This will be 5 per cent of their gross revenue generated. Officials said the measures would help end PB’s financial woes. The corporation requires Rs 3,000(crore) every year for operations but its annual revenue has been about Rs 1,600 crore over the past few years. An official said the measures would make PB financially independent of the government.

Sometimes it seems that it is always (Orwell's) 1984. When a government propaganda tool is called a public service broadcaster. When Rs 3,000 crore(30,000 million) are wasted on ---- on what exactly? What good does Prasar Bharati do, really?

Sevanti Ninan asked in 2004 -
What do mature democracies with a burgeoning private sector media need an information and broadcasting ministry for? You could argue that a largely rural, poor society could have media needs which the private sector will not find profitable to meet. But how well is Prasar Bharati, which costs Rs. 5 crore a day, meeting these needs? We have a satellite kisan channel, a terrestrial kisan channel, and Krishi Darshan. Have they revolutionised Indian agriculture?

How many hospitals would that 3000 crores every year (and growing) build and thus save more lives? How many schools? How many buses for better public transport? How many extremely poor could survive if that money was spent just on their basic meals?

I am a libertarian. I don't believe that the state should be doing any of these things. But there are many, many who do, including almost everyone in the government itself. So shouldn't that 3000 crores(and counting) be put to better, much better use ? Why are the employees of Prasar Bharati, the I&B bureaucrats , the ministry officials and toadies and hanger-ons and middlemen, the politicians and their chamchas* - why are they more important than the hundreds of thousands of people in extreme poverty who could survive with some decency if that 3000 crores could be used to help them.

Back of the envelope calculation -at Rs100 to feed one person for one day, Rs 3000 crores would feed about 821,917 persons for one year!

But I suppose Doordarshan must be doing something reaaaally important -just can't figure it out now. And in the meanwhile, we live in dread of another bolt(and jolt) from under that blue.

(all emphasis mine)

*The colorful Indian language translator-
Chamcha - literally, a spoon. A derisive word for toadies, hanger-ons and boot-lickers, with whom every Indian politician is surrounded. Indian politics is replete with such cutlery.In fact, there is a hierarchy in chamchadom, as the politician surrounded by chamchas is himself the chamcha of a bigger politician.It's a whole and complex ecosystem. Someday the scientists who specialize in parasites will pay more attention to it.

Update -is it true that the so-called public service broadcasters are almost always toadies of the government(Doordarshan in India, Channel 1 and Channel Rossiya in Russia and Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) in Iran for example) or, if they are truly autonomous, they come under the sway (control, rather) of a politically correct, left leaning orthodoxy (BBC in UK, National Public Radio (NPR) in USA andNetherlands Programme Service(
NPS) in Holland, for example)?

Here is an interesting tale of what happened when a 'right-wing' journalist unexpectedly became part of the cozy leftists club at the NPS, Holland -

Some excerpts-
When conservative columnist Joshua Livestro was confronted with censorship at the Dutch public broadcasting corporation, he didn’t get mad – he got even.
Late on Saturday evening, I received a phone call from Van Friesland. He said he thought it was a good column, but he warned me to tread carefully: “With a program like ours, with its left-wing audience, you’ve got to remember: leftist columnists will be praised even for third-rate efforts. Right-leaning columnists have to be much more conspicuous in the way they operate.” Right now, he suggested, reading out this column just wouldn’t be a good idea. Better switch to a safer option. I gladly jotted all of this down in my notebook.

Based on the flood of complaints the program routinely received in the hours after the show, by the way, I wonder whether the editors really know what makes their own audience tick. The e-mails all complain of similar issues: biased, leftwing presenters, and a biased, leftwing editorial policy, with a clear preference for guests and issues on the left.

Looking at the statistics for the four months I was involved with the program, I can only say the e-mails understate the extent of the problems. I looked at the period between the beginning of March (when I was first hired) and the end of June (when my contract was terminated). In that period, the editors invited nearly twice as many liberal guests as conservative ones – 23 versus 14. Among government ministers, the bias was even more obvious. Five different ministers from the governing left-of-center Social Democrat party appeared on the show. And from their coalition partners, the right-of-center Christian Democrats? Not a single one.
(all emphasis mine)

Go read the whole thing -it's worth it.