Freedom in the air

Published: Thursday 15 August 1996

-- The Forum for Independent Film and Video (fifv), a Delhi-based congregation of socially conscious image makers, has lambasted the government for the present state of television programmes. It has called for the development of a parallel broadcasting system which would entail autonomy from direct political and commercial interests; multiple and expanding access that works for an expanding production base which goes against monopolistic control and plurality, that is, a commitment towards the free expression of diverse and contending ideas, both dominant and marginal.

It has demanded that the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990, should clearly demarcate three parallel streams: official, commercial and the public broadcasting system. "Advertising pays for television, we are told, and it logically follows that it (tv) should serve the advertisers' interests. The fact is, it is we (consumers) who pay for advertising through increased prices."

"We have met the members of the Nitish Sengupta subcommittee which is looking into the Prasar Bharati issue and which will be submitting its report at the end of the month," said Pankaj Butalia, one of the key fifv activists and a film maker. "They were shaken, but they have said that they will look into it." About the role of the public broadcasting system, Butalia said it will be central for freedom of speech through the electronic media, and key to taking up real people's problems at the regional and local levels, which no one will do today. "We are talking about the Broadcasting Corporation of India creating a body outside it. The officials have asked us to propose an administrative structure for this," Butalia said.

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