I&B ministry mulls panel to take 'tough' look at DTH

NEW DELHI: India's information and broadcasting ministry proposes to set up a committee to look into the regulatory framework for the KU-band DTH sector and possibly suggest more stringent measures.

The step is being envisaged in the wake of a public interest litigation that has been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking directions from the court to the government to review DTH operations in the country in the absence of a proper regulatory framework and access to porn stuff through such a network.

The proposed panel would be headed by I&B ministry secretary Naveen Chawla and is likely to have some representation from other ministries too, including law and home.

However, some industry observers described this proposed government panel as another step towards controlling of the media and taking steps to promote Indian pubcaster Doordarshan, which is set to launch a KU-band DTH service, but is finding it difficult to market it commercially in the absence of popular entertainment channels on the platform.

Earlier this month, during the first hearing of the PIL, filed by the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies chairman N Bhaskara Rao, also considered close to I&B ministry Jaipal Reddy, the court directed the government to revert within a month's time with a detailed reply on the issues raised by the petitioner.

At the moment, apart from the proposed DD venture, there is only one DTH service operational in the country and that is promoted by Subhash Chandra companies under the brand name Dish TV. An application from Tata-Star combine seeking a licence for a DTH service is still pending with the I&B ministry, despite having clearances from other places, including the home ministry.

Petitioner Rao, who has pointed fingers at the usual suspects like national security, has stated that "the security clearances given" by the government to respondent No. 4 to the case (Dish TV) for starting a DTH service is "not at all foolproof and many compromises are being made at the cost of national security."

Pointing out that the existing security clearance procedure needs review and tightening so as also to protect India's cultural heritage.

Rao in his petition has further stated that the existing DTH guidelines have been framed with the backing of a national policy and are not at all adequate and foolproof, especially against facilitating in accessing pornographic channel/content by a subscriber of a DTH service and also in the transmission of secret messaging and possible misuse of communication channel by terrorist groups.

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