Peace TV Saga: 24 TV channels identified unfit for telecast in 2015 by India

NEW DELHI: As some South Asian countries scramble to plug loopholes to stop re-transmission of unlicensed TV channels in the aftermath of Dhaka massacre perpetrators being allegedly influenced by Peace TV sermons, India identified 24 channels as not fit for telecast in 2015.

Peace TV from Dubai and as many as 14 television channels from Pakistan figured in a list of 24 channels that India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) identified as ‘not conducive to the security environment in the country’ in 2012.

The list included Pakistani channels like PTV, PTV Home, PTV World, Geo TV, Dawn, Express, Waqat, Q TV, Madni TV, Noor TV, Hadi TV, Aaj, Filmax and STV.

Out of the other ten, there were two from Nepal (one identified as Nepal, and the other as Kantipur), one channel each from Bangladesh (NTV Bangladesh), Maldives (TV Maldives) and Bhutan (Bhutan Broadcasting Service), and the United Kingdom-based Ahmedia Channel.

The other channels were from Arab countries like Saudi TV, while the Indian security agencies had not disclosed identities of two channels, ARY TV and XYZ TV.   

These TV channels were denied downlinking licences by the Indian government. However, industry observers maintain some of the aforementioned channels continued to be available illegally on some networks in some parts of the country owing to “pressure from local cable TV subscribers and lax or indulgent policing.”   

Last week, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) warned distribution platforms against re-transmitting unlicensed TV channels, including Peace TV,  in India and said action under law will be taken against defaulters.

Interestingly, junior minister at MIB Rajyavardhan Rathore informed  Parliament  in  December 2015 that the ministry had formulated a detailed guideline for setting up of state and district level monitoring committees to oversee content transmitted by India’s 60,000-odd cable operators with a view to curb illegal channels.

These committees, comprising various cross sections of the society, were intended to aid and advise authorized government officials in ensuring compliance of the provisions of the Cable TV networks Regulation Act, Rathore had said in Parliament.

This Ministry had proposed certain amendments in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 too to address the problem of illegal telecast of foreign channels.

The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Second Amendment Bill 2011 containing these amendments was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 15,  2011 and was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee concerned for examination. The Committee opined that the proposed amendment to the Act would be redundant in view of the proposed complete digitalization of  cable networks. The Bill was introduced in the 15th Lok Sabha but lapsed following the dissolution of the House.

Cable Organisations Support Govt Action

Meanwhile, reacting to the warning issued by MIB against distribution of unlicensed channels like Peace TV, National Cable and Telecommunication Association (NCTA) President Vikki Choudhri said he had flagged this issue with the government several times in the past.

A letter from NCTA to the government in January 2008 had highlighted some distribution platforms carried on their networks unlicensed foreign-based TV channels in India.

Choudhri was of the opinion that “strict action’ was the only way to stop such irregularities and added in August 2010 had also advised the police on seven local operators who were telecasting such unlicensed channels.

Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) President Roop Sharma said she had been, from time to time, sending out advisories to Federation’s LCO members to guard against re-transmitting TV channels that were not permitted by the government and did not have proper landing rights in India.

“All you need to do is pick up the phone and expose offenders. We do not encourage airing channels that might lead to communal tensions,” Sharma added, urging viewers too to come out and complain against such illegal TV channels.

All India Aavishkaar Dish Antenna Sangh President A K Rastogi reiterated his industry colleagues’ stand saying MIB had laid down strict guidelines in this regard and any violator should be “punished” without any discrimination.

Maharashtra Cable Operators Foundation (MCOF) president Arvind Prabhu said that the foundation had asked all member MSOs at various times to ensure such illegal channels were not re-transmitted.

Pointing out that  “any MSO or LCO who is a real Indian at heart will immediately switch off these channels if they are being shown", Prabhu told  that the number of MSOs who might be showing such channels was “miniscule”.

Bangladesh Bans Peace TV

Reliance Industries Ltd-owned English news channel CNN-News18, meanwhile, reported that Islamic preacher Zakir Naik collected large amounts of money in the name of his UK-based charity Islamic Research Foundation International and later diverted it to Peace TV.

The CNN-News18 investigation has also revealed that Mumbai-based Harmony Media prepares production content for Peace TV and that the offices of the production house and Naik’s Mumbai NGO were located in the same building in Mumbai.

In a related development, PTI reported from Dhaka that Bangladesh government on Sunday banned the broadcasting of India-based controversial preacher Zakir Naik’s Peace TV.

The decision to ban Peace TV Bangla was taken during a special meeting of Cabinet Committee on Law and Order, PTI reported, quoting Bangla Industry Minister Aamir Hossain Amu who chaired the meeting.


Indian govt warns against re-transmission of Peace TV illegally

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