Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch Sansad TV alongside Rajya Sabha Chairperson and Vice President of India M Venkaiah Naidu, and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla at the Main Committee Room, Parliament House Annexe today (15 September) at 6 pm.
The launch of the new channel will take place on the International Day of Democracy.
Sansad TV will merge the two parliamentarian channels Lok Sabha TV and Rajya Sabha TV. This decision to make a single, new entity was taken in February 2021 with the CEO of Sansad TV appointed the next month.
Sansad TV programming will primarily be in four categories -- functioning of Parliament and democratic institutions, governance and implementation of schemes/policies, history and culture of India and issues/interests/concerns of contemporary nature.
Before RS and LS TV
Before the channels went live, select parliamentary proceedings, such as the Presidential Address to the joint session that takes place on the first day of the first session of the year, were televised.
When the DD News channel was launched, Question Hour in both Houses started getting telecast simultaneously on DD channels.
Birth of Rajya and Lok Sabha TV
Lok Sabha TV was founded in July 2006 with the aim that people had the right to know what their elected representatives are saying in the Parliament.
Reportedly, it was the brainchild of former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee who introduced the idea of a 24x7 Parliamentary channel with the objective to acquaint citizens with the functioning of the House.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV), covering the proceedings of the Upper House, was a public cable television channel owned and operated by Rajya Sabha and was launched in 2011. Apart from telecasting live coverage of the proceedings of Rajya Sabha, the channel would also broadcast knowledge-based programmes.
Sansad TV goes live
The decision to form Sansad TV was taken in February this year.
However, discussions on the merger had first started around 2017 as it was felt that the two channels were duplicating efforts and resources, which were creating an additional financial burden.
In November 2019, a committee headed by former Prasar Bharati chairman A Surya Prakash was constituted to ready the blueprint of the merger. The committee in its report had recommended one integrated channel for Parliament.
Before submitting its report, the committee had held 10 meetings and also consulted a dozen Parliamentarians from both the Houses and from different parties.
Sources said that the members also suggested that the channel should raise “required awareness about the Constitution and its philosophy, functioning of the legislatures and their contribution to socio-economic transformation of the country, functioning of other constitutional organs like judiciary and executive, history, culture, ecological issues, scientific and technological advances”.
Sansad TV is headed by retired IAS officer Ravi Capoor, who was appointed CEO for a year in March while Manoj K Arora, an IRS officer, has been appointed as the interim editor-in-chief.
The budget of Sansad TV will be shared jointly by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. An official of the Lok Sabha Secretariat said, "While Lok Sabha will bear two-third of the overall cost, Rajya Sabha will share one-third."
As of now, Sansad TV has a staff strength of around 250, comprising the staff of both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha TV, and these include around 17-18 anchors. No fresh hiring has been undertaken, at present.
Sansad TV will operate out of the same Mahadev Road office in Delhi, which was used by the Lok Sabha TV earlier.
According to news agency PTI, veteran Congress leader Karan Singh, economist Bibek Debroy, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, and advocate Hemant Batra will host different shows on this new channel.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor will conduct interviews with legendary personalities across spheres from films and poetry to dance and sports.
Sources said that the involvement of Karan Singh and Shashi Tharoor signals the democratic character of Sansad TV.
For a show on health, Sansad TV has tied up with Medanta’s Ambrish Mithal, chairman, Endocrinology and Diabetes.
When the houses are in session, Sansad TV will telecast proceedings.
When Parliament is in session, Sansad TV will have two channels so that the proceedings of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha can be aired simultaneously.
However, Sansad TV has invited some criticism from the Opposition.
Panel chair Surya Prakash described the merger as a welcome step that will provide a more integrated approach to the parliamentary content that is broadcast.
“It will reduce additional burden on finances by pooling in the resources of both the channels and synergising the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings through an integrated channel that will not compete with any private channel and will have a different mandate,” he was quoted as saying to The Print.
Former editor-in-chief and CEO of LSTV Joshi offered a similar assessment, saying the step will go a long way towards synergising parliamentary content, and reduce additional financial burden.
Transparent and uncensored
With the launch of the new channel, there is a belief that it will be transparent.
In the past, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha TV have been accused of censoring Parliament proceedings.
For instance, the Trinamool Congress alleged that Rajya Sabha Television "censored content" on Opposition protests during the Monsoon session of Parliament.
"CENSORSHIP. Modi-Shah 'masterstroke'. Rajya Sabha TV showing selective footage/online edit. All protests in the House by about 100 MPs from 15 Opposition parties not being telecast. #Pegasus hacking, espionage, military spyware," TMC MP and leader of the party in Rajya Sabha Derek O' Brien had tweeted in regard to the incident.
Similarly, Congress MP Manish Tewari alleged that the Lok Sabha Television was “censoring” content in a “concerted effort to squelch dissent in the supreme legislative institution”. “Lok Sabha TV is not the property of a particular political party, it must show proceedings in (an) unbiased manner. The selective focusing of the camera is (the) worst form of censorship,” the Congress MP tweeted.
Terming the alleged move as “the height of censorship”, he said: “Lok Sabha TV cameras show one thing inside the house on giant TV screens in the Chamber and absolutely another thing on the Lok Sabha TV Channel. As former Union I&B minister, it is preposterous the way a supposedly autonomous institution is behaving.”
So, as the channel begins to run from 2 October, we will wait to see how Sansad TV changes how we view Parliament sessions.
With inputs from agencies