India boosts broadcast budget

Budget stands at $5.35 bil, compared to $4.21 bil last year

NEW DELHI -- The 2009-10 annual budget for India's Information and Broadcasting Ministry has been increased by 27% in the government's annual budget.

According to a statement Thursday, the New Delhi-based I&B Ministry said it has been allocated $5.35 billion (25.68 billion rupees) over $4.21 billion (20.25 billion rupees) in 2008-09.

The ministry has been allocated a planned outlay of $1.6 billion earmarked for various sectors such as broadcasting ($1.08 billion), information ($13.75 million), film ($12.5 million) and a provision for $32 million for “programming and related activities” for the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi.

The overall budget also includes provisions for special events publicity and new ventures such as the planned Museum of Moving Images announced last year, for which the government said at the time that a budget of $15 million was allocated for the museum which will be built in Mumbai. While detailed figures are not availalble, the new budget also has provisions for a planned Global Film School and a National Centre for Excellence in Animation, Gaming & Special Effects. Other budgetary allocations include “programmes on various issues covering national integration, communal harmony and other themes of national and social importance.”

State-regulated broadcaster Prasar Bharati Corporation (which runs statecaster Doordarshan) has been given $20 million for projects in the North East states (bordering China) and Jammu and Kashmir (bordering Pakistan in the north) where plans include setting up additional TV and FM radio transmitters.

In May following the general elections, former tourism minister Ambika Soni took over as I&B Minister. On Wednesday, the ministry confirmed the appointment of Raghu Menon as I&B Secretary who replaced Sushma Singh.

Soni has been quoted stating that the I&B Ministry “will regulate” the coverage of incidents like last November's Mumbai terror attacks and set up a nodal agency to disseminate “authoritative news” in such cases.

Live TV coverage of the November 26 Mumbai attacks allegedly masterminded by Pakistan-based terrorist groups, in which at least 173 were killed, led to hotly contested debates over the media causing a potential security breach during such incidents. Another much-publicised issue has been the selection process for the government's National Film Awards which saw legal proceedings last year that delayed the awards. Without giving details, Soni has said that the selection process “should be made more transparent” as it is “a people's movement."