Polls give channels more time for news restructure

NEW DELHI: Some of the news channels that had applied to the government seeking various clearances, have got an advantage by default. Because the general elections have been announced, the government will not take any policy decision.

Pointing out that senior mandarins from the information and broadcasting ministry are likely to meet the Election Commission officials tomorrow seeking guidance on various issues, a senior government official admitted, "News channels like Zee News and even Television Eighteen (a majority partner in the TV 18-CNBC business channel) have gained more time because no policy decision can be taken by the government."

Though TV-18's case is a bit different, the likes of Zee News and even some Indian-owned channels like Sun, Eenadu and Sab TV (who have announced plans for starting news channels) have official reasons to smile. In some cases, the delay on the government's part can also be explained as a reason for deferring launches as well.

Some ten applications had been received by the I&B ministry where companies had sought permission to uplink and start news channels from India as also undertake restructuring to conform to the existing norms.

Meanwhile, influenced by the indecisiveness of the EC, the I&B ministry is still ambivalent whether to allow pubcaster Doordarshan to accept political advertisments and also charge a fee for giving airtime to various politicial parties --- a tradition that was started when DD was the only TV broadcaster in the country.

Prasar Bharati, which manages DD and All India Radio, has conveyed to the ministry that it should be allowed to charge a fee for airtime given to political parties to air their agenda for the forthcoming general elections.

According to Prasar Bharati officials, the airtime devoted to such activities would amount to an opportunity cost of approximately Rs 160 million.

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