Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect 

It looks like that the UPA government is developing dementia. It can’t remember any more if it supports a free market economy or a socialist one. The so called mixed economy on which many of us grew up was some thing we all thought was well and truly over but it looks as if it is not so. Whey else otherwise, the government have the sudden brain wave of imposing an annual recurring fee from the owner of every television set – Rs. 500 for each color set and Rs.200 for each black and white set. 

And this is only one of the many measures being contemplated by the UPA government to pump money into the supposedly autonomous Prasar Bharati so that they can perform their public service broadcasting role better. Interestingly enough, the money thus collected is not going to increase radio and Doordarshan coverage in the villages or increase the quality of programming. Rather, it is going to help the government pay Part of the money raised will go into providing government pay scales and other benefits for the 38,000-odd Prasar Bharati employees. Sources said the license fee plan alone could raise an estimated Rs 23,871 crore.  
The average middle class person and above typically does not watch Doordarsahan or listen to All India Radio. For the others who do, may be in the rural areas where cable television has not penetrated and where terrestrial television is still the norm, the bets are that the typical viewer and radio listener has a life style far lower down the ladder compared to the Prasar Bahrain bureaucrat. How ethical is it then that he or she should subsidize the life of government bureaucrats and program staff which even today have a large dollop of programs that could have come out of the stables of the Soviet era propaganda department. 
It is probably time to question several things. One is that in a socialist style Robin Hood style economy, which is obsolete any way, the poor are subsidized by the rich. Here we have a situation where the poor and that is typically the profile of the person who watches Prasar Bharati programs who will be paying for the upkeep of government TV and programming staff. It has been reported in the context of these proposed taxes that the revenue of Prasar Bharati is about Rs.1, 500 crores per year and the operating costs are about Rs3,000 crores. It has also 38,000 employees.   
Another good question to ask is to why the government funded broadcaster should be running so many channels if no body watches them ? If at all, in a large and complex country like India , a need is felt to have a platform from where the government feels the need to reach out to the entire population at times of National crisis or emergencies , it could at the most manage one news channel to communicate with the nation. The rest of the entertainment channels, sports channels , and regional language channels which don’t attract any advertising could just be shut down. Even in the private sector, even among those channels which are not free to Air, no channel is surviving on subscriber fees alone. Why should things be any different here ? 

Witness the recent incident involving Dayanidhi Maran where Sun TV published a poll that angered the Tamil Nadu chief minister and that subsequently led to the exit of Maran in the cabinet. In all this battle for viewer ship , there were three players – Sun TV , Raj TV, and the about to be formed Kalaignar TV. DD Tamil was not a player of any magnitude in the game for whose viewer ship , any body was keen to fight any wars and battles. In the private sector, if a particular industry bleeds for long , it either shuts down or if it has assets of its own, it gets acquired or merged with some other. The old style nationalization wherein sick companies are acquired by the government and run with the tax payer’s money does not happen even in states like West Bengal any more.  May be that the government should tax the high end  television purchaser, the kind of television which gets reflected in the Annual Information Return- the folks who buy high end plasma televisions or the LCD sets. Those purchasers too may complain but at least such a policy is at least consistent with the Robin Hood government’s Aam Aami policy. Making a dhaba owner with a banged up black and white TV or a cheap Chinese set pay a recurring tax is not good welfare. Or may be even good politics.  

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