Government examining complaints against MBPL: Prasad

NEW DELHI: The Indian government is examining complaints regarding Music Broadcast Pvt. Ltd. (MBPL) being indirectly promoted and controlled by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Star Group.

This was stated by information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in a written reply in the country’s Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) today, which has been adjourned for the day because of the Opposition stalling proceedings.

MBPL operates private FM radio stations under the brand name Radio City. Replying to a question by Ram Vilas Paswan, Prasad said his ministry has received complaints regarding the company, which are being examined in consultation with Department of Company Affairs (DCA) and the ministry of law.

The minister said that MBPL had applied for licence and as it fulfilled the eligibility criteria, permission was given to participate in the auctioning of FM radio licences over 18 months back. On being successful bidders, licences were given to MBPL for operating FM radio stations at Bangalore, Lucknow, Mumbai, Delhi, Nagpur and Patna.

Though it was not stated in the house, but MBPL has since then surrendered at least two licences for Patna and Nagpur citing reasons of business not being viable in these cities.

Meanwhile Prasad in his written replies, which are deemed to have been tabled in Parliament in the wake of adjournment, also told Lok Sabha also said that private FM broadcasters are not permitted to air news and current affairs programming.

As per terms and conditions of licence agreement’s Clause 7 Main Text and Clause 1 (a) Sec 6 of the tender document, "the licence is for free to air broadcast of audio on main carrier and data on sub-carrier, both excluding news and current affairs and any other services, which are under jurisdiction of Department of Telecommunication," the minister said.

Replying to a question by Sunder Lal Tiwari and Satyavrat Chaturvedi, Prasad told Lok Sabha that a complaint from India’s pubcaster Prasar Bharati, dated 11 June, 2002, was received through the Prasar Bharati CEO regarding broadcasting of news and current affairs on a private FM channel in Mumbai.

The matter was taken up with the company, which has responded that it had happened inadvertently and measures have been taken to ensure that this is not repeated, Prasad said. According to the minister, the Central Monitoring Services, a wing of the I&B ministry, had been asked to monitor the radio stations in Delhi and such vigil is being kept by the ministry too to ensure that the terms and conditions of FM radio licence agreement are adhered to.

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