Ban on AXN and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi's hidden agenda
Priya Ranjan Das Munshi has assumed the role of the nanny of India's television audience. He has just announced a ban on the television channel AXN for telecasting a programme called 'The World's sexiest advertisements'. I have seen the programme a couple of times and can aver to the fact that the programme telecasts advertisements that are extremely funny, well crafted and yes, with mature, but NOT tasteless content. In my opinion many of the Bollywood and especially the South Indian film songs telecast during prime time are far more suggestive and some times even pornographic in nature.
But who can agree with Das, who feels an irresistible urge to display his power and pomp. Here is a man who has been the President of the AIFF (All India Football Federation) since 1988. India continues to slide down the world rankings from 99 in the November 1993 FIFA rankings to 148 this November. Even the bit of separation that India achieved between its neighbours a decade ago has gone with the South Asian countries tightly clustered around with Myanmar at 150, Sri Lanka 156, Bangladesh 158, Pakistan 165, and Nepal 172. Read all about Priya Ranjan Das's record as, head of the AIFF, on www.soccerblog.com, here.
Kuldip Nayyar, one of India's most respected journalist has written the following about Das in The Telegraph-
"Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi was a hatchet man during the Emergency in India. What Sanjay Gandhi, who ran the country at that time, liked about Dasmunshi was his uncanny ways of needling the media, particularly the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group of newspapers in West Bengal. But Dasmunshi’s regret was that he never got the chance to legalise the illegal. Mrs Indira Gandhi was defeated at the polls......In the name of de-bureaucratising the ministry he has played havoc with its working. It has taken him time to place his “trusted men” at key places. Now that he has done it, he has the launching pad ready. Dasmunshi’s first salvo is the Broadcasting Bill. Luckily, the Left, the leading ally of the ruling combination United Progressive Alliance, has expressed its doubts. Post-Stalin comrades are sensitive to the press freedom. This has made Sonia Gandhi retract. Otherwise, Dasmunshi was all set to have the Bill passed in the current session of Parliament. Imagine what he seeks to do, as a few leaks suggest: The Government of India will have powers to shut down any TV channel or broadcasting station in “public interest.” Even a deputy commissioner can order local cable operators to stop disseminating any programme from any channel.This is a crude form of censorship, authoritarian in content and in violation of Article 19 of the Constitution which makes freedom of expression a non-negotiable right of any Indian citizen. But then Dasmunshi is a practical man who has learnt from the days of the Youth Congress that it is the power that counts, not principles. The difference between what he did during the Emergency and is doing now is that he had to circumvent the Constitution then to impose censorship but today he brazen-facedly brings a Bill to muzzle the media. I am amazed at the audacity of the minister when he argues that the Broadcasting Bill is “media-friendly, progressive legislation, not seen anywhere in the world.” The word, progressive, must have undergone a change since he has become minister. Dasmunshi has singled out the English media for attack. “Do their journalists enjoy freedom in their own organisations and is their work not subjected to pressure from the management?” he asks. I can assure him that “the pressure” which he talks about is the fallout of the Emergency. That was the watershed. That was when established administrative procedures and conventions were subverted for the benefit of individuals, who had contacts at the “right places.” When the government could do so, why not others?Never before had the newspaper management dared to suggest even indirectly what to print or not to print. The chit “BM” (Business Must) was thrown in the wastepaper basket whenever received in the editorial room. Since those who gagged the press during the Emergency got away with the crime without being punished, the newspaper management has followed suit. The press freedom has been the casualty from those days. Dasmunshi’s Bill, if pursued, would have reduced the constitutional guarantee to a farce."
So shameless is this politico that while he seeks to ban T.V channels and impose his brand of puritanism and piety on Indians, he himself is free to abuse the power he has. A few months before, many in the Indian media widely reported the fact that Das ensured that Doordarshan, a state broadcasting channel cover the Doorga puja's that his wife participated in on Prime Time news, for more than any other important news worthy event of the day!
The issue is not just about AXN and the ban on this one channel. The issue is about the unbridled abuse of power that ministers like Das indulge in and their blatant attempt to control public and private media, so that they tow the line they are told.
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