Cabinet unlikely to take up uplinking issue on 11 March

NEW DELHI: The Indian cabinet is unlikely to meet on Tuesday (11 March 2003) as it generally does as part of the two designated days in a week for such meetings. This means that the government is also unlikely to take a stand on the hot issue of uplinking of news channels from India and their ownership and equity patterns.

Pointing out that a cabinet meeting is not scheduled for tomorrow as of the time of writing this report, a government official, however, told, "It is the information and broadcasting ministry's (I&B) endeavour to take the issue to the cabinet at the earliest possible opportunity, especially when all the senior members of the cabinet will be in Delhi for the meeting."

The official also added that despite criticism of the I&B ministry in certain quarters on attempting to delay matters, the ministry may have ended up doing some favour to the interested media companies.

If the government takes a decision, any decision that is, on the uplinking issue after the parliament goes into a recess on March 14, the official said, there are less chances of any parliamentarian asking for further debate on the cabinet decision.

Though it is not mandatory, any policy decision, small or big, taken by the government while a session is on, has 

to be announced in parliament as the generally followed parliamentary norm.

Though nobody in the government is ready to admit it, but there is a feeling in the government that any decision on uplinking of news channels from India has the potential of becoming a controversial issue.

Hence, if the cabinet takes a stand on uplinking during the recess, the chances of immediate reactions from political circles as well as the industry is lessened up to some extent. But it is also a fact that all such decisions have to be told to parliament the moment parliament reconvenes.

There are several theories on the stand the government may take, but a no-decision can only add to the anxiety of players concerned like Star, NDTV World and even TV Today Network. Star may be seemingly the most affected party because of delays as the D-day of March 31 draws tantalisingly close.

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