Is immature leadership killing RSTV?

Rajya Sabha Television (RSTV) is these days, is in a great state of flux. Day in day out the channel is either getting noticed for its unsubstantiated  incorrect reporting or serious allegations of favoritism and nepotism in employment process.

Recently in the eye of the storm for calling former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee a traitor and an ally of British occupational government RSTV has given a lease of life to the perpetrators with another important assignment. And this has happened in defiance of the strict orders of Chairman Rajya Sabha Venkiah Naidu who is directly responsible for all administrative and financial affairs of the Parliamentary channel. One is really beginning to suspect if Chairman Rajya Sabha actually is the head of the channel at all.

It all started within couple of months after the change of guard at Rajya Sabha when Venkiah Naidu took over the seat of Chairman from Mohammad Hamid Ansari. Naidu terminated the services of Gurdeep Singh Sappal holding dual charge of Chief-Executive Officer (CEO) and Editor-in-Chief (EnC) of the channel. Shashi Shekhar Vempatti CEO, Prasar Bharati was given additional charge of RSTV and six-member ‘Search & Select Committee’ was formed for the appointment of EnC. And soon after all things went awry.

Early 2018 RSTV was in news for discriminatory appointment of Rahul Mahajan to the post of Editor-in-Chief (https://kohraam.com/featured/rstv-another-case-of-discrimination-139581.html). Barely a couple of months later questions were raised over the entire process of appointment process being followed for several other senior positions of Executive Editor, Executive Producer, Associate Executive Producer among others (https://www.timesheadline.com/opinion/rstv-blatant-biased-bigotry-21646.html). And the skeletons kept falling out of RSTV cupboards.  Not to mention the oppressive ways of newly appointed EnC in dismissing certain professionals to please some people in the ruling dispensation (http://www.theworldnewshindi.com/2018/07/03/is-rajya-sabha-tv-is-becoming-rsstv/).

It was not just appointments that were being questioned. Some very serious issues like financial impropriety (https://www.timesheadline.com/india/rstv-raag-desh-trial-22792.html) and even women harassment matters (https://www.timesheadline.com/featured/rstv-rip-vishakha-21935.html) at RSTV came to the fore. What was more disturbing was the attempt of a shoddy cover-up of these inexcusable acts.

But the most recent event has everybody in the extended Sangh fraternity is in a quandary.

On 16 August 2018 on day when not just the country but a large part of the world political community was singing odes to departed three time Prime Minister of India, Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee, RSTV was busy questioning Vajpayee’s integrity and commitment to Indian Freedom Struggle (https://www.timesheadline.com/india/parliamentary-channel-questions-vajpayees-commitment-integrity-freedom-struggle-22846.html).

In the show Associate Executive Editor Neelu Vyas Thomas asked journalist Vijay Trivedi to tell about the time when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was arrested by the British authorities and was aske write an undertaking that he will not agitate or protest against the British rule in India. Visibly disturbed Trivedi attempted to gloss over the question but the anchor managed to extract a confession of sorts from the panellist that Atal did give an undertaking favouring British ruler.

However this was reported in the media and eventually RSTV was forced to run an apology on the channel (https://www.timesheadline.com/india/timesheadline-news-impact-rstv-apologises-vajpayee-faux-pas-22924.html).

This should have put an end to the matter. But the https://www.timesheadline.com/india/timesheadline-news-impact-rstv-apologises-vajpayee-faux-pas-22924.htmlraised more questions than furnishing answers.

Sources in the know of the things confirm that after the story on RSTV faux pas reverberated in the media the Chairman that is Venkiah Naidu reprimanded EnC Rahul Mahajan for the massive lapse. He also gave very clear instructions that an apology should be run on RSTV with the name of the programme and the anchor. It is also confirmed that Naidu instructed that the Neelu Thomas should be warned and not be given any anchoring assignments. However it turns out that despite the clear instructions of Naidu Thomas has not just been exonerated of any wrongdoing but already approved for another big anchoring assignment.

A day after RSTV ran the apology for maligning the name of Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee the perpetrators of the inexcusable act was given approval for another big ticket programme. The very next day Neelu Thomas was asked by EnC Rahul Mahajan to go ahead and prepare for a programme on Teacher’s Day. The programme is due to be recorded on 1 September 2018. This was a clear defiance of Chairman’s direct orders. Sources now reveal that this is not the only case of autocratic decisions at Rajya Sabha Secretariat.

After March 2018, since the new EnC joined, there have been several arbitrary dismissals from RSTV. Insiders say that these would not have been possible without the approval of CEO, Additional Secretary and Secretary General. And any modification of Chairman’s order can’t be done by just EnC or CEO.

Now if Chairman had given an order to run the apology with the name of programme and the anchor the decision to omit the name of anchor would not have been possible without the approval of CEO and SG.

Such happenings have raised a doubt as to whether Venkiah Niadu is at all running the affairs of Rajya Sabha TV or there some ‘invisible hand’ running the show with him holding the front office.

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