Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV) continues be in the news for wrong reasons consistently. This time, there is serious allegation of favouritism regarding appointment of an executive editor – a senior position in the TV channel. What is even more worrisome is that this is happening even while the House is in session. It is being said that the appointment to the post of executive editor was already decided in February 2018, and current interview process is just a sham.
Here is another instance of blatant favouritism by the RSTV. An advertisement was posted on May 7, 2018, for selection of executive editor. Interviews were conducted on 23 July 2018, following the applicants’ response. However, sources close to the process have alleged that the entire exercise was merely an eyewash, as the decision to hire the executive editor was taken in February 2018 itself. In fact, they claim that the Search and Select Committee formed to recommend the name of editor-in-chief not just selected him, but also unilaterally recommended the name of the executive editor as well. Surprisingly, RSTV secretariat had neither asked for the name of the executive editor, nor had informed the committee that the position was vacant. This clearly shows that the committee had sat with a premeditated mandate, and had made recommendations accordingly. The committee recommended the name of Rahul Mahajan as the editor-in-chief and Vibhakar as the executive editor, according to sources.
On October 21, 2017, Venkaiah Naidu, the newly elected chairman of Rajya Sabha formed a six-member Search and Select Committee for “appointing” the editor-in-chief of RSTV. The committee was headed by A Suryaprakash, chairman Prasar Bharati Board of India. The committee also had Shashi Shekhar Vempatti, CEO, Prasar Bharati with additional charge of CEO RSTV and Swapna Das Gupta, Member Parliament (Rajya Sabha), and also a senior journalist, A A Rao, Additional Secretary, Rajya Sabha Secretariat and in-charge, RSTV, and Rahul Shrivastava, a senior journalist.
Sources in the know of the entire proceedings say that the blatant nepotism in making these appointments is actually contained in the files in Rajya Sabha Secretariat.
At the time of appointment of the editor-in-chief as well, there was a lot of hue and cry in the media; however, this has come out for the first time that the Search and Select Committee went beyond its assigned mandate, and without the prior and express approval from the chairman, Rajya Sabha, offered unsolicited advice to the chairman.
What baffles one is that not just the committee was dissolved immediately after receiving the recommendations, but the recommendations were implemented in parts then, and are being implemented in parts now.
A lot of questions were raised in the media regarding the disbanding of the Search and Select Committee, and formation of a new one. However, sources say that this is merely a paint job because nothing much has really changed. Recalling the previous committee, they point out that it was headed by A Suryaprakash, and had Vempatti, Rao and Shrivastava. All four are included in the current committee for the selection of the executive editor of the RSTV.
The current committee is also a six-member committee and based on these repeated names, it is safe to assume that the recommendation of the previous committee is unlikely to change. But that is not all. One must look at the names of other two members of the current committee too.
The fifth member of the committee is of course Rahul Mahajan, appointed as the editor-in-chief by the same committee.
And to add legitimacy to the recommendations to be made by this particular committee one big name was definitely required. As a result, Ram Bahadur Rai, Chairman IGNCA was included in the committee. However, one against five is no match. And there is the regular method of elimination of any probable threats through the process of “short listing”.
Now the most important piece of information both Rahul Shrivastav and Ram Bahadur Rai kept away from the selection meeting despite being in the town. In view of this questions will be asked about continuing with this process in absence of any independent member. Of course A Suryaprakash, Chairman Prasar Bharati can claim to be independent member but hardly.