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Manpower: M Venkaiah Naidu orders audit of Rajya Sabha TV expenditure

NEW DELHI: Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has ordered expenditure and professional audit of Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV) after discovering that huge costs — to the tune of Rs 60 crore annually — were incurred by the government-owned channel.

Naidu has red-flagged the expenditure incurred by the channel on renting office premises, hiring cabs and producing a feature film. Since the launch of the government-owned channel in August 2011, the channel has incurred an expenditure of Rs 37 ..5 crore — working to around Rs 62.5 crore annually. The statistics provided to the Rajya Sabha Chairman reveal that RSTV pays Rs 25 crore as an annual rent to hire NDMC-owned premises in Talkatora Stadium. Naidu has directed RSTV to find out whether making a one-time investment and buying an office space would be more economical than spending Rs 25 crore annually.

Naidu has also red-flagged an expenditure of Rs 12.5 crore — spent on producing a film ‘Raag Desh’, directed by  Tigmanshu Dhulia and released in July this year. These facts came before the Rajya Sabha Chairman during a review exercise on Wednesday.

A source present in the meeting told ET: “Naidu has questioned why a TV channel which was mandated to cover Rajya Sabha proceedings, news and official functions would get into producing a feature film.”

RSTV, which has 290 employees against a sanctioned strength of 416, has been asked to find out possible areas of rationalisation of expenditure and manpower. During the review exercise, Naidu asked officials about the viewership but the channel head had no information. “How many people watch RSTV — this was a question asked by Naidu and he was told that the channel had no clue about the viewership,” said the source.

Naidu raised issues about specific mandate, viewership and content mix of the channel. He directed an audit and a clear strategy be framed in view of the most appropriate content and how to harness its strengths. He also asked officials to explore a working relationship with Prasar Bharati, the country’s official broadcaster. “Since RSTV is also a public broadcaster, it was directed to find ways to build a system where a synergy could be developed with Prasar Bharati,” the source added.

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