The Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990

The Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990 came into force on 15th September, 1997. The Act provides for establishment of a Broadcasting Corporation known as Prasar Bharti. The act defines composition, powers and functions of the Corporation. The Act aims to provide autonomy to electronic media i.e. the All India Radio and Doordarshan which until the enactment of the Act were under government control. The Act had received assent of President on 12th September, 1990 however it could not be enforced in absence issuance of notification under sub section (1) of section 3 of the Act. It was essential to enact a legislation of the like nature inorder to take media out of governmental control and to enable and ensure its impartiality in political, economic, social and other public issues.

Supreme Court in its judgement in Union of India vs Cricket Association of Bengal held that broadcasting media should be under the control of the public as distinct from Government. It should be operated by a public statutory corporation or corporations, whose constitution and composition must be such inorder to ensure their impartiality in political, economic and social matters and on all other public issues.

The corporation under the Act is a body corporate having common seal and perpetual succession with its head quarters in New Delhi. Section 3 sub clause (5) states composition of Prasar Bharti which shall be headed by a Chairman along with eight other members two of which shall be ex officio members. The Act also empowers the Corporation to establish certain committees as and when required for management of the corporation. The members shall be appointed by the President on recommendation of a three member committee except for ex officio members. The President shall also have power to remove the members incase such member is adjudged insolvent, is of unsound mind, hold office of profit or is involved in an offence relating to moral turpitude.

The board shall meet atleast six times in a year. Chairman shall preside over all board meetings.  The board has power to appoint other employees of corporation in consultation with recruitment board. The recruitment board shall consist of such members other than members of the board and are appointed under section 10 of the Act.

The Corporation under the Act is established with certain objectives of upholding principles of unity and integrity enshrined in the Constitution, paying attention to field of education and awareness, providing adequate coverage to cultures and languages of various states, promoting social justice, expanding broadcasting facilities, promotion of national integration, promoting research and development are a few amongst others enshrined in section 12. Apart from these the corporation shall remain unbiased and always serve purpose of national interest.

The act also provides for establishment of Parliamentary Committee consisting twenty two members of whom fifteen shall represent House of people. The committee is established with a purpose to oversee that the Corporation function in furtherance of the provisions of the Act.  Apart from this there shall be a broadcasting council which shall consist of President and other members who shall receive complaints pertaining to the Corporation.

Since the day of enforcement of the Act all the property, debts, liabilities, suits, money etc. of Corporation vested with Central Government shall be transferred to the Corporation. Inorder to enable the corporation run smoothly the government shall reserve funds for the corporation. The corporation shall have its own fund from which its expenditures shall be taken care of. If the corporation decides it can invest money in securities of Central and state Government. The corporation shall prepare its annual financial statement and shall maintain proper accounts. The accounts of the corporation shall be audited by Comptroller General of India. Under the Act the Corporation was not liable to pay taxes the same is repealed by Act 20 of 2002 with effect from 1.04.2003.

Thus the Prasar Bharti Act was an important step towards liberalising media the act works on the principles of checks and balance on one hand it gives enormous powers to the corporation but also keeps a check to prevent it from turning into an autocratic body.

by Vibhuti Nakta.