Under Indira Gandhi’s direction as Minister in 1964, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting established a committee led by former Auditor-General of India Ashok.Chanda to investigate Indian broadcasting. It presented a report on radio and television in 1966 that was critical of the state’s financial and administrative restrictions on these media. The report noted that the independence of All India Radio (or “Ākāshvānī” since 1956) was systematically undermined by ministerial interventions in programming and through political appointments of staff: “successive Ministers usurped the policy-making functions of the directorate-general and started interfering even in matters of programme planning and presentation” (Chanda 1966, 51). The Chanda committee also noted that radio and television were significantly underfunded, as compared with comparative countries. Under the former Ministers of Information and Broadcasting since Indian independence – Vallabhbhai Patel (1947-1950), R.R. Diwaker (1950-1952), and B.V. Keskar (1952-1962) – the Chanda committee suggested that television was understood as “an expensive luxury intended for the entertainment of the affluent society and . . . should be left alone until our plans of economic development have been completed” (1966, 199). The Chanda report instead concluded that “A psychological transformation is necessary” (1966, 231) with regard to state approaches to Indian broadcasting, providing 219 recommendations. Unlike the majority of the film industry, the report recommended that radio and television should remain publicly controlled, while requiring greater funding, including through advertising revenue.
Robin Jeffrey (2006, 216) effectively sums up the political-historical context that circumscribed the influence of the report:
“The timing of the report – April 1966 – was inopportune. The Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, had died in January, Mrs Gandhi was an unsteady replacement, the country had just fought its second war in three years and the two-year ‘Bihar famine’ was beginning.”
The recommendation that Ākāshvānī and Doordarshan be separated finally came into being a decade later, in 1976. The debate about the political independence of the public broadcasters was resumed in 1977 with the Verghese Committee, and the recommendation of a public broadcasting model like the British Broadcasting Corporation. – Liam Grealy
– Chanda Report (1966) Radio and Television. Report of the Committee on Broadcasting and Information Media (Asok K. Chanda, chairman). New Delhi: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
– Jeffrey, R. (2006). The Mahatma didn’t like the movies and why it matters: Indian broadcasting policy, 1920s-1990s. Global media and communication, 2(2), 204-224.
– Working Group on Autonomy for Akashvani and Doordarshan (1978) Shri B.G. Verghese.