After nearly two years of discussion, the merger of the Lok Sabha TV and the Rajya Sabha TV has finally been announced and will be replaced by a single entity Sansad TV. On March 1, retired IAS officer Ravi Capoor was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the channel.
Under the banner of Sansad TV, sources said, Lok Sabha TV will continue to telecast live proceedings of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha TV that of the Rajya Sabha.
Notably, in November 2019, after deliberations between Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, a committee headed by former Prasar Bharati Chairman Surya Prakash was set up. It submitted its report in February 2020, regarding the merger of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha into Sansad TV.
Why the decision?
Lok Sabha Television was launched in 2006 by then Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, while Rajya Sabha TV hit the airwaves in 2011.
Apart from broadcasting the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament, the channels aired discussions and other programmes on a range of topics. According to sources in the two channels, the secretariats of the two Houses started deliberations on the merger in 2017.
On 7 November 2019, a committee was constituted and tasked with chalking out the modalities of the merger, and preparing guidelines for pooling of resources and technology.
The panel was headed by former Prasar Bharati Chairman A. Surya Prakash, and its members included additional secretary to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat A.A. Rao, Ganpati Bhatt of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, RSTV financial adviser Shikha Darbari, Manoj Kumar Pandey, and Dr Aashish Joshi, former LSTV CEO. The committee held several sessions with parliamentarians across parties.
A senior official associated with LSTV told The Print that the panel said in its report, submitted last year, that there should be just one integrated channel for Parliament.
“There was a lot of duplicacy of efforts and resources between the channels and this was leading to an additional financial burden. The merger came through because of that,” the official said.
“For instance, the office space hired by RSTV at Talkatora Stadium had Rs 30 crore as rent, which was later reduced to around Rs 16 crore, but that was also too high,” the official added.
The new Sansad TV, the official said, will function from the same space as LSTV at Delhi’s Mahadev Road.
Panel chair Surya Prakash described the merger as a welcome step that will provide a more integrated approach to the parliamentary content that is broadcast.
“It will reduce additional burden on finances by pooling in the resources of both the channels and synergising the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings through an integrated channel that will not compete with any private channel and will have a different mandate,” he said. Former editor-in-chief and CEO of LSTV Joshi offered a similar assessment, saying the step will go a long way towards synergising parliamentary content, and reduce additional financial burden.
How will the move pan out?
Sources in the channels said the merger panel had said in its report that there should be two separate channels under Sansad TV — Sansad 1 and Sansad 2. This is aimed at serving two purposes — to ensure parliamentary proceedings of both Houses can be telecast simultaneously, and, in times when Parliament is not in session, to cater to English and Hindi audiences. A senior official privy to the report said Sansad 1 was mooted as the channel for Lok Sabha proceedings and Sansad 2 for Rajya Sabha proceedings. When Parliament is not in session, the first channel can air Hindi content and the second, English content, the panel is believed to have recommended. “The Sansad TV umbrella… will be headed by a single person. But there are plans to have two different channels under it on the lines of the recommendations of the panel so that content of both Houses can be aired equally and all audiences can be catered to,” the official said. A lot of the programmes on Rajya Sabha TV, the official sought to note, were in English. Both channels are likely to have separate editorial heads. A few sources said a Doordarshan channel could also be engaged to air some of the RSTV proceedings. However, several aspects with respect to human resources and funds will now need to be streamlined, the aforementioned official added. Apart from airing the parliamentary proceedings of the two Houses, Sansad TV will air multiple daily and weekly programmes on news and current affairs, on the themes of democracy, and awareness of the Constitution, among others. During the times Parliament is not in session, there will be several common programmes telecast by the channels, sources said.
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