Ten case: Dasmunshi hints at tough riposte on cricket content sharing

NEW DELHI: TV and film content producers can breathe easy for now on the smoking ban, but sports broadcasters beware on content sharing with the Indian pubcaster as the government feels slighted on the issue and turn of events.

"Though the matter is sub-judice, we have taken serious note of the issue," information and broadcasting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi today said when asked for views on private sports broadcasters challenging in courts the must-share clause in the downlink policy.

Dasmunshi, while interacting with journalists today at the Sixth Social Editors' Conference, expressed displeasure that Ten Sports had refused to share with Doordarshan the feed of the ongoing India-Pakistan cricket series in Pakistan and had demanded a high price for it.

Without directly commenting on the court cases being filed by Ten and ESPN Star Sports on mandatory sports content sharing with DD, which challenges the very validity of having such a media law, the minister said the government would look into the matter.

The present I&B minister, who took over the reins from Jaipal Reddy a few months ago, also indicated it would be difficult to implement a health ministry-sponsored ban on depicting tobacco usage in films and TV programmes.

Pointing out that he's against glamourisation of cigarette smoking and consumption of alcohol because of social reasons, Dasmunshi admitted that to implement such a ban in films and on TV is "not possible."

"I am in talks with the health minister on the issue and support his noble moves, but to implement the ban is not possible at this moment," the minister said.

Rather, according to Dasmunshi, the film and TV industry should go in for self-regulation to limit depiction of smoking without stifling creative freedom.

Govt not presently considering cross media restrictions

At a time when increasingly media-related issues are getting referred to courts and disputes tribunal, the government today said that cross-media restrictions to curb vertical monopolies are not being considered.

"No such restrictions are being proposed at the moment," Dasmunshi said, adding that it went against the grain of liberalisation.

However, he did mention that there are other agencies, envisaged under the competition law, which could look into competition-related issues to ensure fair play. Similarly, the minister also ruled out any law for the present to neutralise cable operators' ground monopoly.

Supplementing the minister, I&B secretary SK Arora highlighted that monopolies tend to create exclusive content to drive revenue, but the sector regulator's guidelines have tried to negate such trends through advisory on inter-connect agreements amongst cable ops, broadcasters and MSOs.

Dwelling on the capital restructuring of pubcaster Parar Bharati, which manages DD and All India Radio, Dasmunshi said that efforts are on to make the organisation financially viable and a group of ministers might examine the whole issue once his ministry cobbles together a report on it.

Arora added that a panel under his chairmanship examining a capital restructuring of Prasar Bharati would submit its report "by the end of this month."

Earlier, the minister enlisted the achievements and initiatives of his ministry saying the government has taken a "number of positive steps" for extending coverage of media, whether it be in TV, radio or print.

Dasmunshi offered the example of the 139 FM radio frequencies offered till now, of which private companies have snapped up 117, while the government received approximately Rs 6.22 billion as one-time entry fee from bidders.

"Successful closure of financial bids reflects the robustness and acceptance of our new (radio) policy," the minister pointed out.

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