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Disappearance of Arab channels as no permission sought: Indian govt

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NEW DELHI: The Indian government today clarified that no channel has been banned, especially Arab TV channels.

Disappearance of Arab TV channels from Indian cable networks has got more to do with them not conforming to new media norms like getting landing rights from New Delhi, the government stated today officially.

“(The) government reiterates that Arab TV channels like Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabia (and) Q TV have not yet applied to be downlinked in India till date. Hence they cannot be transmitted/re-transmitted through cable networks/DTH in India, for public viewing,” information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said in a statement today.

The information and broadcasting ministry statement added, “Arab channels are still free to apply afresh for registration under the downlinking guidelines, if they so desire and they will have similar opportunities like others.”

Dasmunsi said in Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) today, “In order to strengthen the mechanism of regulation over the content of television channels, which are being transmitted/re-transmitted through cable networks/DTH in India, for public viewing, the government has notified downlinking guidelines on 11 November, 2005.

“All private TV channels, which are beamed into India and are being transmitted/re-transmitted through cable networks/DTH in India for public viewing, have to get themselves registered under the said guidelines. To facilitate smooth implementation, six months time (up to 10 May, 2006) was provided to all TV channels to comply with the provisions of the downlinking guidelines and get themselves registered.”

The government has allowed TV channels, which were uplinked from abroad and had made an application for registration to the federal government up to 11 May, 2006, to be re-transmitted in India for a period of six months or till the time registration has been granted or refused, Dasmunsi said.

Private TV channels, which were uplinking from India, in accordance with the permission for uplinking granted before 2 December, 2005, were treated as “registered” television channels under the downlinking guidelines, the government said today.

The government also clarified that no Arab TV channels have been banned, as reported in a section of the media, under pressure from Israel.

“The government of India denies this vehemently as it is contrary to facts. No channel in particular has been `banned’ recently by the ministry of information and broadcasting. This is a malicious and baseless accusation against the government by interested quarters,” Dasmunsi said.

Under the downlinking norms, 65 TV channels, uplinked from abroad, have applied for landing rights.

In a bylined report from Mumbai a correspondent of Arab News blared: “In a country widely referred to as the world’s largest democracy, the Indian government has succumbed to mounting Israeli pressure and ordered a nationwide ban on the broadcast of Arab television channels.”

The report further added that New Delhi’s ban on Arab television stations “is in complete contrast to the friendship that Arab countries imagine exists with their neighbor across the Arabian Sea.”

It seems the ban is a move to ensure that Indians do not get to see the atrocities that are presently being committed by Israel in Lebanon and the occupied territories, the report said.

The lopsided report quoted one Nabila Al-Bassam, a Saudi businesswoman on a trip to Mumbai, as saying she became exasperated at not being able to watch Arab channels at Mumbai’s leading five-star Oberoi Hotel. When she took up the issue with the hotel manager, she was told that Arab television channels had been banned across India.

What the hotel management and many like them did not know was that the so-called disappearance of Arab TV channels like Al Arabiya was because those TV channels had failed to apply for landing rights in India.

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