Technology

Government refers uplinking norms issue to GoM

NEW DELHI: The government today referred to a group of ministers (GoM) the various changes suggested in the uplink policy, including making sharing with Doordarshan on a mandatory basis feeds of sports events of national importance irrespective of the fact whether it has telecast rights or not.

Information and broadcasting minister Jaipal Reddy told newspersons after a Cabinet meeting today that a decision has been deferred as wider debate on various aspects of uplinking is needed.

However, he said the GoM, yet to be formalised by the Prime Minister, would be expected to submit its report on the uplink policy and the changes suggested by the I&B ministry within two weeks.

Asked about the aspects of the uplink policy that the I&B ministry had sought to amend, Reddy said following things had been proposed, amongst others:

    Allowing FII/NRI/OCB investment in news channel ventures in India within the overall foreign cap of 26 per cent.

    Granting foreign channels (like BBC and CNN) and news agencies (like Reuters TV) uplink permission on a long term basis, which would be annually renewable, instead of giving permission event-wise.

    Allowing all channels and teleports to uplink to KU-band transponders from India. At the moment, only C-band uplinking is allowed and KU-band frequencies are normally reserved for DTH services.

    Making it mandatory for any broadcaster to share on a commercial basis with pubcaster DD the terrestrial feed of any event of national importance, including sports.

According to Reddy, there was a lack of consensus on the issue of sharing of rights with DD on a compulsory basis in the Cabinet meeting. "It has to be debated and modalities discussed," the minister added.

In recent times, Doordarshan has been able to show important cricket matches only because of the intervention of courts, Reddy said.

If the government brings in such a legislation favouring national broadcaster, prices of telecast rights of sporting events, including domestic cricket, would fall drastically.

In 2003 August, the then government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, had tightened the enforcement of foreign equity regulations for television news channels seeking uplinking facilities from India by mandating 51 per cent shareholding in such ventures will have to be dominant Indian on the same lines as in the print medium.

The tightening was done then as the government felt dissatisfied by replies given by Star to the queries sought by the I&B ministry about foreign equity structure in Star News.

Earlier in March 2003, the government had decided to cap the total foreign equity at 26 per cent for TV news channels wanting uplinking rights from India.

News channels, which had a foreign equity of more than 26 per cent, were given one year for restructuring to adhere to the norms.

Since then several extension to the deadline has been granted and, according to information revealed in Parliament recently, some news companies are yet to comply with the guidelines on shareholding pattern.

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