Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has begun investigation into the details of a contract that was signed between All India Radio (AIR) and a production house for commissioning a programme, which has incurred an expense of approximately Rs 8 crore.
All India Radio is a broadcast arm of Prasar Bharati, an autonomous body under the ministry of information and broadcasting.
According to officials aware of the developments, a contract was signed between the production house Super Ads and AIR to produce a show ‘chandi ke parde se’ (from the silver screen), where soundtrack of Hindi films was played on radio.
“A preliminary finding shows that the producers were paid excessively high remuneration, nearly ₹10 lakh for procuring the soundtracks rights of each movie. This when the cost incurred on airing a film on Doordarshan is about ₹12 lakh,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
It has also come to the notice of the ministry that government advertisements meant for radio broadcast were “diverted to be aired during the show”.
“As per the contract 50% of the advertisement revenue will be shared with the producers; so the money coming in through these advertisements is also shared with the company,” the functionary quoted above said.
Even as PB has begun investigating why the company was paid more than the market rate, the production house has shot off a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office, complaining that a “CBI like” situation is emerging in the shape of a “tussle” between the director general of AIR and member finance of Prasar Bharati.
The producers of the show complained they have not been paid any money for 140 episodes of the show aired between September 2017 and March 2018.
“The programme was aired only after the contract was signed; each aspect including the financial details were agreed to by AIR; but even after 140 episodes have been aired, we have not been paid any money. The company is owed about ₹6.5 crore plus GST,” said a person attached to the production house.
The production house alleges that the payment has been put on hold owing to disagreements between AIR and Prasar Bharati. “As per the contract, we were asked to produce another 260 episodes, but the production has been put on hold owing to the tussle between senior officials,” the person associated with the production house said.
The person also added that the programme was given a certificate of being a top revenue generator. “We were told that the total revenue generated by the 140 episodes was ₹16 crore; the analysis wing of AIR told us that listenership data from FM Rainbow and Vividh Bharati (where the programme was aired) showed a 3 crore listenership.”