RSS’ Hindusthan Samachar replaces PTI as Prasar Bharati’s news feed source: Report

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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed news organisation Hindusthan Samachar will now serve as the sole source of news for India’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s daily news feed.

Prasar Bharati, which operates Doordarshan and All India Radio, inked an exclusive deal with Hindusthan Samachar on February 14, 2023, nearly two years after cancelling its subscription with the Press Trust of India (PTI), India’s largest and oldest professional news agency, The Wire reported.

Since 2017, Hindusthan Samachar has offered Prasar Bharati its wire services free of charge and on an ‘evaluation basis.’

However, a written agreement between the two parties states that Prasar Bharati will give Hindusthan Samachar close to Rs 7.7 crore over the course of two years, with payment terminating in March 2025. According to the deal, Hindusthan Samachar must offer Prasar Bharati with at least 100 news pieces every day, including at least 40 ‘local stories’ in regional languages and 10 national news items, The Wire stated in its report.

Shivram Shankar Apte, a senior RSS pracharak and co-founder of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad alongside RSS ideologue MS Golwalkar, launched Hindusthan Samachar, a multilingual news organisation, in 1948.

The Narendra Modi government’s recent bitter run-ins with news organisations PTI and United News of India (UNI) during the past few years preceded Prasar Bharati’s newest decision to legally induct Hindusthan Samachar.

Sources in Prasar Bharati told The Wire that in 2017, the government gave the public broadcaster the go-ahead to stop providing these news firms’ services due to their ‘unreasonable’ subscription costs. The agencies were paid Rs 15.75 crore annually, of which over Rs 9 crore went to PTI’s costs, according to a 2017 article by The Wire.

The sources further hinted that the Modi administration wanted a news outlet that only presented ‘favourable’ views of the government and that it considered both PTI and UNI delivered ‘slanted’ news feeds.

Since 2014, the Modi government has had major and minor issues with the PTI’s independent news coverage. Nevertheless, issues came to a head when in 2020, a top Prasar Bharati official, Samir Kumar, had written to PTI’s chief marketing officer claiming the news agency’s ‘recent news coverage’ on the Ladakh stalemate was damaging to ‘national interest’ and harmed ‘India’s territorial integrity’.

“It is also mentioned that the PTI had…been time and again alerted by the Public Broadcaster on editorial lapses resulting in dissemination of wrong news harming public interest,” the letter added.

The report further states that,in the aftermath of the Ladakh border stalemate, the centre was upset by PTI’s interviews with the Chinese envoy to India and the Indian ambassador to China in 2020. 

Hindusthan Samachar, whose stated mission is to present news from a ‘nationalist’ perspective, was forced to close its doors in 1986 due to a financial crisis. The RSS, however, revived it in 2002 during AB Vajpayee’s tenure as Prime Minister.

Several oppostion leaders reacted negatively to the development.

TMC Rajya Sabha MP and former CEO of Prasar Bharati Jawhar Sircar remarked that it’s ‘best’ to merge Prasar Bharati and BJP.

“Finally. Best to merge Prasar Bharati and BJP,” he tweeted.

Kerala Former finance minister Thomas Isaac called the development as bringing Prasar Bharati under the ‘RSS heel’.

“Hindustan Samachar, controlled by RSS replaces PTI as news agency for Doordarshan and AIR. An exclusive contract has been signed for this purpose by Prasar Bharati with Hindustan Samachar. Instead of granting autonomy to Prasar Bharati GoI has decided to bring it under RSS heel,” he tweeted.



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( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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