India’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has signed a two-year deal with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed news agency Hindusthan Samachar for its daily feed, The Wire reported on Saturday.
Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting which runs the Doordarshan and the All India Radio. Hindusthan Samachar was founded in 1948 by Shivram Shankar Apte, an RSS leader and a co-founder of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
According to its website, Hindusthan Samachar was set at a time when “the country needed a news agency that would not only cater news through its own languages but was also inspired, motivated and informed by a spirit of true Bharatiya (Indian) nationalism,” reported The Indian Express.
Hindusthan Samachar had been providing its wire services to Prasar Bharati for free since 2017 on an “evaluation basis”. As part of the new deal – signed for nearly Rs 7.7 crore – Hindusthan Samachar will provide at least 100 news stories every day to Prasar Bharati, including a minimum of 10 national stories and 40 stories in regional languages, reported The Wire.
The new deal comes two years after the public broadcaster had cancelled its subscription with the Press Trust of India – one of India’s leading news agencies.
In 2020, Prasar Bharati had termed PTI’s coverage of the border row between India and China as “anti-national”.
This was after the news agency had published an interview of former Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong, who had accused New Delhi of provoking the military clash in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in June 2020, which led to the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers. China put the number of casualties on its side at four.
Prasar Bharati’s backlash against PTI could have also been associated with a separate interview the news agency did with Vikram Misri, New Delhi’s former ambassador in Beijing. The PTI had quoted Misri as saying that Chinese troops “needed to move back to their side” of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, a statement that ran counter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim that the troops did not intrude into Indian territory.
PTI had described the allegations of being anti-national as “unwarranted, unjustified and unfair”.
On Sunday, Prasar Bharati Chief Executive Officer Gaurav Dwivedi told The Indian Express that Hindusthan Samachar was the only wire service that offers content in multiple Indian languages.
“We had a prior contract with Hindusthan Samachar, which was renewed this month,” he told the newspaper.
Several social media users, including Opposition leaders, activists and journalists criticised the Prasar Bharti-Hindusthan Samachar deal, expressing concerns that it would mean biased coverage by the public broadcaster in favour of the Hindutva ideology.