Prasar Bharati office and the logo of Hindusthan Samachar. Collage: The Wire

New Delhi: India’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharati will now entirely rely on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed news agency Hindusthan Samachar for its daily news feed. On February 14, 2023, Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio, signed an exclusive contract with Hindusthan Samachar – a decision which came some two  years after it cancelled its subscription with the Press Trust of India (PTI), India’s largest and oldest professional news agency.

Hindusthan Samachar has been providing its wire services to Prasar Bharati free of cost since 2017 on an “evaluation basis”. However, the two parties entered into a formal agreement in which Prasar Bharati will pay nearly Rs 7.7 crore to Hindusthan Samachar for a period of two years ending in March 2025. The contract says that Hindusthan Samachar will have to provide at least 100 news stories every day to Prasar Bharati, including a minimum of 10 national news stories and 40 ‘local stories” in regional languages.

PTI has more than 600 staff journalists and some 800 stringers across India. It provides to its subscribers about 1,000 stories a day across all topics. Earlier this month, PTI launched a video service that streams more than 100 live events a day and more than 200 raw video packages, which marks PTI out as a challenger to ANI, another news agency favoured by the Modi government.

Hindusthan Samachar, a multi-lingual news agency, was founded in 1948 by Shivram Shankar Apte, a senior RSS pracharak and co-founder of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad along with RSS ideologue M.S. Golwalkar. Ever since the Modi government came to power, Hindusthan Samachar has been a regular beneficiary of government advertisements and has been reported to have plans to shift its small office in Jhandewalan near the RSS’s Delhi office to a bigger one in Noida

Prasar Bharati’s latest move to induct Hindusthan Samachar formally was preceded by the Narendra Modi government’s bitter run-ins with news agencies PTI and United News of India (UNI) over the last few years. According to sources in Prasar Bharati, the government had instructed the public broadcaster to terminate the services of these news agencies in 2017, citing “unreasonable” subscription fees. The Wire had reported in 2017 that the agencies were being paid Rs 15.75 crore annually, nearly 9 crore of which was PTI’s fees.

However, the sources also implied that the Modi government believed both PTI and UNI provided only “slanted” news feeds and that it wanted a news agency that shows the government only in a positive light.

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