New Delhi, May 2: Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar today appeared to rue the government’s “shadow” over Doordarshan a day after DD News denied BJP allegations that it had “censored” and “downplayed” its interview of Narendra Modi, telecast on Sunday evening.
Sircar, in a purported letter to the Prasar board (which supervises DD’s functioning) that was leaked to the media, seemed to suggest that some of Modi’s comments were “apparently edited”.
The letter expressed regret that “the young minister” —apparently a reference to information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari — did not give DD the autonomy it had been seeking, leading to such a situation.
Sircar, a former IAS officer, also appeared to be suggesting that he had defeated a move to withhold the interview, recorded on April 26 (Saturday) morning in Gandhinagar.
The letter said that when Sircar asked why the interview was being withheld, he was “told by the DG (News) of Doordarshan on 27th afternoon that his team was on the job and would be telecasting it soon”.
“But many of us felt that the subject was too current to hold on, and further delays could only cause unnecessary controversies. I gave him the strength to go ahead and telecast the interview, even though there were concerns that a balancing interview from the other side could not be procured, despite best attempts of DD News,” it added.
The letter didn’t say when the interview was originally planned for telecast, or why Sircar believed it was being withheld. Sircar was not available for comment.
The letter distanced Prasar from the “editing” row saying the matter “was completely left to the editorial team of DD News”.
“And it appears that while portions critical of Doordarshan were telecast, certain comments on other personalities were apparently edited...” Sircar purportedly wrote.
“The mechanisms of appointment, transfers, career assessments and even punitive actions against senior officials of the news division are bound to cast a ‘shadow’, in some form.”
The letter said that if an initiative by the Prasar board to bring in “external professionals” and change the rules regarding appointment of the directors-general of Doordarshan and All India Radio had succeeded, “we may not have faced the type of public criticism that a single interview has invited”.
Apparently, the Gujarat government too had recorded a version of the interview, which the BJP claimed to have uploaded on its website.
According to a media report, an allegedly deleted portion had Modi saying Priyanka Gandhi was like a daughter to him.
But the “unedited” version suggests what Modi had said was: “A daughter will do anything for her mother, for her brother. She should be allowed to do so. I don’t feel bad about anything she says as a daughter.”
The video put out by the party also shows Modi referring to Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel as a “good friend at one time who now does not even take his calls”.
The BJP alleged that these portions were intentionally cut.
A DD News statement said on Thursday: “There was no deliberate editing or omission of any portion of the interview. Wherever editing was done was for technical reasons and during post-production.”
It denied any “interference or control from any authority” and claimed: “There was no attempt to downplay the interview; rather it was given wide pre-telecast publicity and also repeated the next day, April 28. The clips were also used in news bulletins.”
The interview was shown on the prime-time 9.30pm slot.
DD News director-general S.M. Khan said it had taken some time “to make the footage fit for telecast” and fit it into the planned half-hour slot.
“The interview required a lot of post-production as both the interviewer and the interviewee were walking during the talk and three cameras were used for shooting,” Khan said.
“Also, we needed to edit some portions before airing it in a fixed time slot. There was absolutely no pressure from anywhere and what to show, what to clip was purely an editorial decision.”