Government moots riders for foreign news channels

MUMBAI: The government has proposed that foreign news channels and wire agencies wishing to downlink to India are eligible for permission subject to a condition, amongst others, that the channel concerned is not specifically designed for Indian audiences.

In what might create problems for the likes of BBC World, CNN and Euro News (it still has limited reach in India), the government has said such news channels should not have advertisements directed towards the Indian audiences.

However, the government has taken note of representations made by foreign news channels and agencies and mooted that temporary uplink permission can be granted to such channels for a year's time.

At the moment, uplink permission is granted by the Indian government to foreign news channels on a case to case basis for a very limited period of time on occasions like general elections.

In a note for a group of ministers (GoM), studying the uplink and downlink policies before cabinet takes a decision on them, it has been said that "foreign news channels/agencies may be granted permission up to one year at a time for temporary uplinking through a pre-designated teleport."

The proposal states that such news channels should be accredited with the Press Information Bureau and the news footages uplinked shall be primarily for use abroad and shall not be broadcast in India "without downlinking permission and registration" of the channels.

Diluting an earlier proposal, the government has proposed a fee of Rs. 10,000 for processing an uplink application from a foreign news channel, while stipulating Rs. 50,000 as an annual fee.

What is disturbing, however, is the control that has been sought by the government over all TV channels uplinked from India or outside. And, also the hurry that is being shown.

The GoM has been told in a note prepared by the I&B ministry that uplink and downlink guidelines would be implemented "immediately" after clearance from the Cabinet through an executive order.

"The option of having a regulatory body that would monitor TV content and draw up detailed codes and standards, take action on complaints, etc is being examined separately. This will require legislative sanction for which the process will take considerable time," the note for the GoM states.

Pointing out that "there are compelling reasons for regulating channels being downlinked," the note says through the process of registration, the government would be able to get detailed information, including shareholding patterns and business objectives of companies/channels as also their profit and loss accounts.


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