Television

Government woke up to Radio City 'lacunae' too late?

NEW DELHI: The government feels that the case of Radio City should have been taken into consideration earlier while giving the licence to Music Broadcast Pvt Ltd (MBPL). But it also knows that after allowing Radio City to function for over one year, any quick decision on the matter is unlikely.

Briefing some journalists today, a senior government functionary admitted, "If prima facie there are glaring instances (of non-compliance of regulations), a probe certainly would be in order."

Asked specifically about the action that the government can take in the case of Radio City, the government functionary said the information and broadcasting ministry cannot do things with retrospective effect as it has "inherited a lot of baggage" (from the previous regime when Sushma Swaraj was the I&B minister).

However, the government functionary avoided commenting directly on the future course of action on Radio City saying that after MBPL furnishes them with details, the opinion of the law ministry and the department of company affairs would be important.

Still, the government today also sought to distance itself from the fact that it is waking up "too late" in the case of Radio City and that too only after the issue has been pitchforked into the limelight by the Indian Media Group (IMG). Several members of the IMG, consisting of some of the powerful media barons of the country, had linked the Radio City case with the Star News case where the allegation is that behind shell companies and frontpersons, the actual control of Star News lies with Star and not with the Indian shareholders.

Meanwhile, sources in the I&B ministry indicated that the inter-ministerial group, looking into the Star News case, is likely to submit its recommendations within a day or two. The I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad would then seek a meeting of a group of ministers (GoM) to look into the issue.

"If there?s a need to revisit (the existing guidelines), it would be done," an I&B ministry source said, when asked whether the Star News case would precipitate a policy change or remain restricted to the company concerned. If need be, TV-18 and CNBC?s joint venture CNBC India case too would be re-opened, he said.

DIFFERENCE ON CONVERGENCE REGULATOR

Discussions notwithstanding, a regulator for the broadcasting sector doesn?t look like to be anywhere near at hand.

The problem lies in the fact that the Communication Convergence Bill 2001(CCB) is awaiting an okay from Parliament after a parliamentary panel has suggested over 70 amendments. "What do we do of that?" a source in the I&B ministry asked, adding, a separate regulator for the broadcasting sector, as being demanded by some, cannot happen overnight in the light of these facts.

Moreover, it has been indicated that there are serious differences of opinion amongst policy-makers over the super regulator?s role and powers who, it is being said, would become very powerful, almost next to the President and the Prime Minister of the country.

Still, ministry sources said that after the current session of Parliament, I&B minister Prasad is likely to hold consultations with telecom minister Arun Shourie and law minister Arun Jaitley on the issue of CCB and whether a broadcasting regulator can be put in place ahead of the CCB and the envisaged Communications Commission of India.

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Government now puts Radio City under scanner

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