A proposal of Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India), which owns All India Radio (AIR) and Door Darshan (DD), the two public broadcasters, for monetization or commercial utilization of its huge land resources is still pending with the Central Government in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I & B) for almost three years. The result has been lack of resources for development of popular technologies for FMisation, Digital TV transmission and still better programmes for the people. In other words, Prasar Bharati is bleeding amidst stiff competition from private broadcasters.
Prasar Bharati owns huge chunks of prime land resources, mostly on account of AIR, in about 46 prime urban areas. These have become surplus unutilized land following introduction of satellite broadcasting transmission about 30 years ago. A large chunks of such land were required for AIR’S Receiving Centres, which are now redundant and unutilized, as also subject to constant encroachments by government agencies, builders and others. Added to this, the controlling Ministry of I&B has not been allowing Prasar Bharati to utilize its assets even for billboards, banks’ ATMs, banking and other commercial activities. The Government has been insisting on hundred per cent inventory of all land resources, whereas Prasar Bharati’s concern is for five percent of total resources so mobilized for all its requirements thereby freeing itself from financial dependence on the Government and maintaining its viability.
Presently, in Delhi alone, Prasar Bharati has 270 acres of land in Kingsway Camp, a large part of which could be commercially utilized for Government housing and other social purposes. Added to this, in Khampur area of Delhi, there is another 600 acres of land that could be utilized for Government’s critical needs like housing and infrastructure. Part of that resources so garnered could be put in Prasar Bharati’s accounts for providing improved services to the people and serving the nation better. Similarly, huge chunks of prime land resources in 46 urban centres including all state capital cities and other major commercial hubs, if utilized commercially, could yield thousands of crores to the public exchequer.
It will be germane to mention here that under Section 16(a) of the Broadcasting Corporation of India Act (Prasar Bharati Act), 1990, all property and assets including the Non-lapsable Fund, which immediately, before the appointed day, vested in the Central Government for the purpose of Akashwani and Door Darshan or both, shall stand transferred to the Corporation on such terms and conditions as may be determined by the Central Government and the book value of all such property and assets shall be treated as the capital provided by the Central Government to the Corporation. This provision of the Prasar Bharati Act is yet to be enforced, with the result that the Corporation continues to face acute resource crunch. And the Government is yet to decide.
Under the scheme of the Constitution of India, land is State subject, whereas in respect of the National Capital Territory of Delhi the land owning authority vests in the Central Government. Unlike elsewhere across the country, huge chunks of unutilized land resources with the Central Government on account of Defence, Railways, Surface Transport, Urban Development, all Central schemes for their commercial utilization are in limbo, as the States want their pie in their commercial exploitation. The Centre has acquired such lands from the States over times, as land is state subject.
It is now learnt from official sources, that AIR and DD have not yet inventorised their total assets because of which the Government has not finalized terms and conditions for transfer of property and assets on book value to Prasar Bharati.
Meanwhile, there has been no headway in the implementation of the recommendations of the Sam Pitroda Committee Report, presented to the Government in February 2014. The Expert Committee under Sam Pitroda has suggested reforms in the institutional framework of Prasar Bharati including its relationship with the Government. The Committee has made 26 recommendations in the areas of governance, organization, funding, human resource, content, technology, archiving, social media and global outreach.
According to official sources, while complete inventorisation 0f Prasar Bharati’s land resources is undertaken, simultaneous efforts are underway to unlock the value of select identified properties as a pilot case to meet the much needed funds for the public broadcasters. And the monetization of lands can provide the much needed revenue!