I&B ministry toys cross-media restrictions

NEW DELHI: After having proposed that all TV channels beaming from outside India, should register themselves in India, the government is now toying with cross-media restrictions.

According to a senior official of the information and broadcasting ministry, "The ministry is exploring whether cross-media restrictions could be introduced in India to restrict monopoly of media companies, which is being increasingly resorted through vertical integration."

Speaking on the sidelines of a press conference hosted by I&B minister Jaipal Reddy today to announce corrections carried out in some published works of Mahatma Gandhi, the government official explained "bypassing of guidelines in spirit in recent times by a media company in a case related to DTH" has prompted examination of cross-media restrictions.

However, media companies in India need not fret. Legislating cross-media restrictions into a law might take time, would be part of the proposed Regulatory Authority Bill, which Reddy is planning to introduce in Parliament during the monsoon session starting later next month, and highly debatable.

It is worth mentioning here that the Broadcasting Bill, introduced in Parliament in the late 1990s by Reddy himself, during an earlier stint at the I&B ministry, had detailed provisions for cross-media restrictions.

That Bill subsequently went into a limbo and lapsed after a specific period of time as the then government fell from power in the 1990s and successive policy-makers never thought of reviving the proposed piece of legislation.

Meanwhile, Reddy today said that the uplinking and downlinking laws being proposed would go for Cabinet's consideration in about two weeks time.

"We are in the process of giving finishing touches to the Cabinet notes and they would be put up for Cabinets' views in a fortnight's time," Reddy said,

adding that both the proposals are aimed at plugging loopholes in existing laws relating to the broadcast sector.

Having some common features, both the uplink and downlinking regulations are broadly aimed at making all TV channels available in India, whether uplinked from India or outside, more accountable to local regulations and authorities.

The I&B ministry, for example, has mooted a proposal of minimum net worth for all TV channels uplinking from India on the lines of norms prevalent in other industries like banking.

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