Thursday, September 30, 2010

London International Documentary Festival CALL FOR FILMS 2011

The LIDF in association with the London Review of Books is calling for submissions. The call is open and
international. All subject matter is considered. Short and Feature length
films are accepted. First time and established filmmakers all welcome. Films
must be produced after January 1st 2009. The festival is competitive.

The LIDF is the UK¹s largest independent documentary festival. Since 2007
the festival has worked to ensure that London is host to exciting, diverse,
challenging and inspiring films from every corner of the globe. Our partners
in this are globally recognised partners and venues, such as the British
Museum, the Barbican Centre, and the TATE Modern.

We look to support new and innovative filmmaking talent, and to ask
filmmakers to participate in the Œconversations¹ and debates that run
alongside the screenings. 2011 will see new and significant additions to the
festival. The LIDF 2011 is scheduled to run from 5th May - 15th May 2011.

For full details and the on-line Entry Form please go to:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Media Matters: Can we afford Prasar Bharati?

Media Matters: Can we afford Prasar Bharati?

How did this country's experiment with an autonomous public broadcaster
come to such a sorry pass, asks media critic Sevanti Ninan.

August and September have been distracting months for the scandal-
chasing media. Else somebody would at least have drawn attention to the
extraordinary developments concerning Prasar Bharati. In August, the
Minister for Information and Broadcasting recommended the dismissal of
its Chief Executive to the Prime Minister. And in the same month, she
introduced an amendment bill in Parliament that seeks in effect to
ensure that all employees of the corporation will remain government
servants on deemed deputation. Three milestones achieved by non-
Congress governments in 1978, 1990 and 1997 have been quietly reduced
to rubble.

Lal Krishna Advani mooted the idea of broadcasting autonomy in 1978, P.
Upendra presided over its becoming an Act in1990, and seven years later
yet another non-Congress government hastily notified the Act just
before the government fell. But for all their pains, what has developed
since represents neither public service broadcasting in its best sense,
nor autonomy. A 38,000-employee behemoth now has its 20-plus registered
employee unions, all clamouring for the Act to be withdrawn. They want
Prasar Bharati to go back to being what they euphemistically call a
national broadcaster so that they can go back to being proper
government servants. With tax payers now footing an annual bill of Rs.
3,000 crore for the privilege of having a public service broadcaster!

Meanwhile, the Central Vigilance Commission has found colourful
examples of autonomous functioning by the CEO and his colleagues,
amounting to questionable financial dealings. And the board set up to
oversee Prasar Bharati finds itself in a quirky position. The decisions
it takes are simply not recorded by the CEO who records the minutes. A
huge democracy that set out to give itself broadcasting autonomy has
ended up giving one man autonomy, through the tenures of three
different chairpersons. Though found guilty of presiding over highly
suspicious decision-making by the CVC, the next step, that of
suspension, so that an enquiry can take place, has not been taken. The
leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, both former
Ministers of Information and Broadcasting, should be asking why.

How did this country's experiment with an autonomous public broadcaster
come to such a sorry pass?

Changed scenario

Between 1990, when the Prasar Bharati Act was passed, and 1997, when it
was notified, the broadcasting climate in the country changed.
Satellite TV came in, and the need for a non-government autonomous news
broadcaster became considerably less urgent. About the same time, the
government's willingness to keep footing the bill for Doordarshan's
costs began to weaken and in an increasingly commercial broadcasting
climate, the push for Doordarshan to meet its needs through commercial
revenues also came. One Director General of Doordarshan who came along
in 1994 did such a good job of trying to make Doordarshan commercial
that Rupert Murdoch came along and hired him.

Post 1997, Doordarshan and All India Radio employees found that their
dreams of becoming properly-taken-care-of corporation employees — “We
had dreams of being like ONGC”, says a union leader — were not
materialising. They also found their broadcaster was in no man's land.
You could no longer take your representations to the Ministry of I and
B because they told you Prasar Bharati was no longer under them. And if
you represented to PB you were told that the corporation had
insufficient powers.

As for in-house talent, they were busy being wooed and hired by the
numerous private channels coming in. Once private news channels came,
successive governments decided quietly that what in fact was needed now
was a government broadcaster to present the government's point of view.
If autonomy is first tested in the newsroom, that domain has never, in
13 years of alleged autonomy, ceased to be run by the Indian
information service. Even as pretty faces are hired on contract to
anchor the programmes.

And at which point did the CEO of Bharati become truly autonomous
himself? There are two versions to explain this. One which holds that
at the time of notifying the rules for the corporation in 1998 there
was a goof-up while defining the powers of CEO which ended up giving
him more powers than the Prasar Bharati Board. Another version says
that in 2001 the Board passed a resolution (when Pramod Mahajan was the
Information and Broadcasting Minister) giving the then CEO more powers
than he had, particularly in financial matters. Subsequently successive
Chairpersons of the corporation have tried unsuccessfully to undo these
powers and make the current CEO, B.S. Lalli, accountable to the Board.
But since he joined PB at the end of 2006, one Chairperson has been
removed by the UPA government, and the second resigned last year after
unsuccessfully battling Lalli.

In theory, if the Board gave the CEO powers, the Board can take them
away as well. But in practice what has actually been happening is quite
amazing. The Board passes resolutions, the CEO gets the minutes of the
meeting prepared, and does not minute the resolutions or decisions
which seek to take back his powers! Board meetings are supposed to
begin with approval of the previous meeting's minutes. But for the last
two years at least, the Board and CEO have not agreed on the minutes,
even as the composition of the Board and its Chairperson have changed!
Arun Bhatnagar, Sonia Gandhi's handpicked appointee as Chairperson,
took five meetings for which there were 10 sets of minutes — the
Board's version, and the CEO's version, in each case. The CEO did not
accept the Board's version, the Board did not accept his. That is still
happening under the current Chairperson Mrinal Pande. And the CEO
continues to retain his powers. Opposition from the Board to
contractual decisions related to Doordarshan's role as host broadcaster
for the Commonwealth Games were simply not recorded in January 2009,
and therefore not taken into account! If it were not a truly bizarre
state of affairs, it would be comical.

The CVC conducted its inquiry after receiving a reference from the
Prasar Bharati Board. on the directions of the Delhi High Court which
was hearing a case on financial wrongdoing in Prasar Bharati. Now that
its report that upholds most of the charges against the CEO as valid,
the I and B Ministry’s recommendation for the removal of the CEO has to
be referred to the Supreme Court by the Government of India, for that
Court to judge the case and give a final ruling. This is stipulated in
the Prasar Bharati Act.

And as of now, given the unresolved legal dispute over the powers of
the CEO vs the PB Board, even if the Board were to decide to meet and
consider the CVC report , thereafter passing a resolution recommending
the CEO's removal , they will have no choice but to ask the CEO!
Because he has said that he alone according to the notification of 2001
, is authorised to set the meeting , prepare the agenda thereof and
minute the proceedings . The PB Act also stipulates that all Board
resolutions shall be forwarded to the Ministry by the CEO. So he will
need to be asked to forward the proposal, even if it recommends his own

What, meanwhile, has the CVC found the corporation guilty of? Of taking
decisions related to the management of advertising revenues arising
from the telecast of cricket matches on DD without the approval of
either the Empowered Committee on Sports Rights (ECSR) or the Prasar
Bharati Board. The details are quite amazing. The decision on who would
get to manage these revenues were to be decided through a competitive
bidding process involving sealed bids, but when Prasar Bharati's bid
turned out to be the highest in the case of five different cricket
series, it thoughtfully revised its bid each time to enable Nimbus to
bid again and clinch the series! Five times! “Undue advantage to
Nimbus,” says the CVC.

Cases of generosity

Then there was the case of the T-20 Cricket World Cup matches which
Doordarshan did not telecast, despite having the rights to it, through
the Mandatory Sharing Act of 2007. This abdication meant that ESPN
could telecast them exclusively and make a tidy pile. This was after
the ECSR said they should be telecast, and “also after obtaining a
clear legal opinion affirming that T-20 cricket was to be considered a
sporting event of national importance,” says the report.

A third finding confirms more generosity on Prasar Bharati's part. It
procured radio broadcast rights for two cricket series from Nimbus at
rates which were twice that of rates paid earlier for similar rights.
What's more, the rates were twice those fixed by the ECSR, with the CEO
finalising the higher rates. In fact between 2007 and 2009 no ECSR
meeting was convened to discuss the rates on eight occasions. And in
the absence of such meetings, when All India Radio recommended rates,
the rate finally decided in each case was higher than its
recommendation! The beneficiaries of such generosity? Nimbus, ESPN-Star
Sports, ESPN, Ten Sports, MSN/SET Max and ICC/ Big FM. Prasar Bharati
today is the private sports broadcasters' best friend.

Apart from all this the CVC found fault with the generosity with which
Prasar Bharati paid the lawyers engaged. Its policy in the matter of
engaging lawyers was to be approved by the Prasar Bharati Board, but
was never put up to them, the CVC notes. And then there was the small
matter of which lawyers firms were engaged. “The payments made to
external non-empanelled advocates increased by almost five times as
compared to earlier years.”

So what will the UPA government do next in this sticky case of an
overly autonomous CEO? The ball is currently believed to be in the
Prime Minister's court.

And when will some government take a firm call on whether Prasar
Bharati should remain a huge liability on the exchequer, primarily
engaged in creating employment, or whether it can ever play a valuable
public service role in an over-commercialised broadcast space?

Note: Mr. Lalli did not respond to a formal request for an interview
made at least 10 days before this story was written

joseph martin cj

National Media Fellowship Programme for Print Journalists (Deadline - Sept end - apply now)

National Media Fellowship Programme

Recognizing the need to play a proactive role in bringing development concerns more prominently to the public agenda, in 1994 the National Foundation for India launched its National Media Fellowship Programme. The fellowships aim to incorporate areas of social and development concerns not only for their own merit but also for the purpose of media sensitization to bring development concerns to the realm of public consciousness in order to facilitate a more informed development policy discourse.
The Foundation awards between nine and twelve fellowships each year. Under the fellowship the print journalists are expected to research, write and publish with a byline 10 articles on their chosen topic. Photojournalists are expected to write and publish five photo essays and mount an exhibition of his/her work at the end of the fellowship period.
The broad objectives of the National Media Fellowship are to promote effective communication that draws attention to development concerns, encourages excellence in journalism and facilitates a more informed development policy. More specifically the fellowship aim to:

create greater awareness in the media about national development problems
to strengthen public opinion regarding the need to take positive measures to support people-centered development
to facilitate a process of sensitization to development issues among media professionals
to promote effective communication that draws attention to development concerns; and
to facilitate a more informed development policy dialogue.

Fellowships are announced at an award ceremony held in New Delhi.
The details regarding applications for the fellowship are publicized in May each year, following which applications are open till the end of September (the exact dates vary each year). The fellowships are advertised in both Hindi and English, and applications can be sent in English or in any other Indian language.
You can check the details of the previous year’s applications in the brochure uploaded on our website. Once finalized, the details and application forms for the current year will be made available online.

Click to Download 16th National Media Fellowship Brochure

Please direct your queries to:

Kandala Singh:
Maisra Mallik: /
Mini Kakkar at

Monday, September 13, 2010

Article about WAVE in the Sunday Guardian September 12 (Delhi)

Giving Women a Digital Voice
Annie Johnny
Lebul Nisa remembers that at the age of 13 she understood what ‘curfew’ and ‘crackdown’ meant better than she understood the word ‘picnic’. Her story of the horrors she saw growing up in Kashmir is just one of the voices collected by Wave, or Women Aloud Video blogging for Empowerment.
Wave is an initiative by Sapna Shahani and Angana Jhaveri that provides a digital platform to women to express their viewpoint about various contemporary problems and issues. The project began as a concept proposal sent to Digital Media and Learning Competition (DML) that was sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC in the US. When Shahani and Jhaveri won the grant in 2009, the project took off. Wave now has more than 30 women video-blogging from various corners of India. The project selects young women from various parts of the country who have basic knowledge of video and editing for a 9-month mentorship programme. They are provided with video equipment, intensive training and monthly stipends for participating. The women are then sent back to their hometowns to make a short video blog about an issue they wants to spread awareness about. The videos are put up on their website. “Living in cities, we don’t realise that a lot of good is happening at the grassroots level. Through Wave, these women bring out the small stories that inspire. They tell us what India stands for,” says Jhaveri. Though Wave is almost like a citizen journalism initiative, Shahani emphasises the distinction. “Video blogging is more individualistic than journalism. Here, they are free to show and express what they want to. It’s not just reporting the facts, but also about showing their perspective. That’s why we chose this medium,” says Shahani.
The recent screening of videos at the India Habitat Centre showcased diverse voices coming from different corners of the country, throwing light on topics ranging from women’s land rights to alternate ways to conserve nature.
“The project helps to empower women in two ways. First, when you start making a video, the whole process helps in self discovery. You ideate and go out and meet people. This helps in developing skills, and this is empowering in its own way. On a larger scale, Wave is like a social entrepreneurship pro- gramme. When someone pays you for the work you realise the power you have to bring on change,” says Roli Mahajan, who showed a video about Awadhi culture at the screening.
“The project helps in connecting and networking. When I saw this video about missing sons made by a woman in Manipur, I was able to connect, since my video was on the same theme. You become more aware about what is happening in your country. If these women’s stories reach the people who have the capacity to help them out of their suffering, then the purpose is served,” says Nisa.

Friday, September 3, 2010

BBC to organise training on journalism in 8 Indian cities

BBC World Service Trust is going to organise a week long training
course on feature journalism
, for print and television journalists, in
eight cities across India, according to company officials.

Journo Training
The trainings would be led by an experienced BBC trainer accompanied
by a local trainer.

The training course is designed for journalists with a specific
interest in feature journalism (including news features) for early to
mid career reporters. We also plan to do a shorter, follow-up course,
of perhaps 3 days two/three months later.

These trainings will be conducted in Delhi and also in Mumbai,
Bangalore, Chennai, Srinagar, Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar and
Thiruvanthapuram. Trainings for 4 cities namely Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata
and Bhubaneswar will be organized in mid September/October while
trainings for Bangalore, Chennai, Thruvananthpuram and Srinagar will
be held early next year.

We are looking at journalists (both men and women) with following criterion:

Ø Early to mid career journalists (2-5 years of experience)
Ø Interest in feature journalism
Ø Can speak and understand basic English (as English will be the
primary language for training)

BBC is also looking for trainees in Delhi and Mumbai.

In case you are interested in the training programme or need any
clarifications, please feel free to contact
(Mobile:9873051418) or Dr Harpreet Kaur at