The Anchor: 5 things new I&B secretary Uday Kumar Varma must do

18 Oct,2011

Pradyuman MaheshwariBy Pradyuman Maheshwari

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting finally has a full-time secretary. Like his predecssors Raghu Menon and Sushma Singh, guess Uday Kumar Varma will also be in office for around a couple of years before retirement. But he has had three stints with the ministry and from my little interaction with him, I can assure you that we have in the current secretary a man who knows the ministry inside-out.

There’s a lot that a Secretary can achieve, if he or she has the will to do so. But of course there could be sensitivities in I&B, and if the eye is on what’s in store post-superannuation, then you can be sure that an I&B secretary will achieve precious little.

Both Menon and Singh couldn’t or didn’t do much as Secretary. One hopes that Varmaji will do a lot more than his predecessors.

Here’s a five-point tasklist.

#1 Ensure new digitisation announcement is implemented on time.

The sunset date is rather ambitious, but now that the collective wisdom of the bosses in Delhi have put out a policy, it’s the I&B Ministry’s responsibility to ensure it happens well-before time. Don’t get bullied by the lobbies

#2 Must let self-regulators rule.

The broadcastwallahs are still reeling under the scare of the government policy of not renewing channels if they fool around with the content and advertising code. Various media segments like news and non-news channels and creative agencies already have self-regulation in place. The print media too needs a regulator. While a nudge to these self-regulators may be needed to expedite decisions on erring content, but clearly there’s no place for government in policing the world.

#3 Should ensure paid contentwallahs are punished.

The elections are round the corner and it’s heartening to see the Election Commission get into action. But it’s the I&B ministry that must ensure that all those who indulge in paid content should be stripped off their RNI titles, government concessions and DAVP ads.

#4 Push for news on FM Radio.

There is no clear reason why there’s no news on FM Radio. The I&B minister once told me that there is a home ministry objection to news on FM, especially in the border districts. It’s one of the most bizarre reasons given especially since there are thousands of cable channels which abound across the country.

#5 Empower government media — Doordarshan and All India Radio.

Doordarshan’s 50-years celebrations are over and there was plenty of airtime and newsprint spent on what could be done to the two government media. Nothing happened. And nothing will. Unless Varmaji wakes up, empowers the staff and ensures quality content happens on both DD and AIR…

 

This list of ‘must-do’s for Secretary Varma could be endless, but if he manages to take care of the five listed above,  he will forever be remembered as a secy who made a difference.

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