A body of regional television broadcasters have raised questions over Prasar Bharati’s alleged discrimination against regional Hindi and Bhojpuri channels, compared to its own regional Hindi channels. Prasar Bharati conducted an online auction for regional and general DTH slots on 15 February this year. In its notification for the e-auction, Prasar Bharati barred channels from taking part in the auction in the Hindi and Bhojpuri regional DTH channel slot, forcing them to bid for the more expensive general DTH slot. The association said that regional channels could not be classified on the basis of language, but only on the basis of regional distribution, therefore alleging discrimination on the part of Prasar Bharati. The reserve price set for the DTH slot for Hindi regional channels was Rs 2 crore, the participation amount was Rs 50 lakh and the incremental amount was set at Rs 5 lakh. On the other hand, the reserve price set for general channel’s DTH slot was Rs 4.30 crore, the participation amount was set at Rs 1.5 crore and the incremental amount was set at Rs 10 lakh. The objection was raised by Association of Regional Television Broadcasters of India (ARTBI). The Association claims that according to the notification of Prasar Bharati, it is financially more taxing for Hindi and Bhojpuri channels that are distributed regionally to compete with national channels that are financially more capable. Rakesh Sharma, convenor of ARTBI, in a letter to Prasar Bharati and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said: “We have come to know that Hindi and Bhojpuri regional language TV channels have not been included in the regional TV slots.” The Association contended that regional channels could not be classified on the basis of language, but rather on the basis of distribution. “Regional channels, in any languages including Hindi and Bhojpuri, are distributed in the regional territories only. Language cannot be a distinguishing factor to decide whether the channel is regional or national,” Sharma wrote. Explaining that competition is high for Hindi and Bhojpuri channels, he wrote, “In case regional channels in Hindi and Bhojpuri have to compete with national channels, they will never be financially viable or will have a level-playing ground with channels in other languages.”
According to the notification of the e-auction put out by Prasar Bharati, Hindi and Bhojpuri were barred from competing for regional channel slots.
“Regional DTH slot included only non-Hindi channels. Bhojpuri channels and Hindi regional channels will not be part of it,” the notification said.
Repeated attempts to contact the DDG of Prasar Bharati, C.K. Jain returned no response.