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Government toying easing downlink norms

NEW DELHI: The Indian government is expected to formally notify the amendments in the uplink norms together with the first-ever downlink guidelines some time next week after possibly diluting them a bit.

According to senior information and broadcasting ministry official, "The draft notification has gone for law ministry's approval subsequent to which they will be notified for the legislations to come into effect formally."

The official added that the notification could be expected after Diwali or the festival of lights, which falls in the first few days of November.

Though the government official was evasive on easing the stringent downlink norms that would give landing rights to foreign news channels, the I&B ministry is toying with dilution after being petitioned by players concerned, including those in the print medium.

The government has said that all foreign news channels desirous of uplinking from India and then landing back should not have any content or advertising especially targeting the Indian audiences. This means that dedicated Indian feed cannot be put together by the likes of CNN and BBC World.

Additionally, the government has given itself discretionary powers to waive the aforementioned clause in special cases.

A select group of ministers, which vetted the uplink and downlink norms before Cabinet's approval on 21 October, had suggested that any norm relating to regulating ads and content on a news platform should be uniform for both the electronic and print mediums.

This suggestion has been accepted by the government too.

However, disallowing local ads would make the business of printing of facsimile editions of newspapers like Financial Times (Indian partner Business Standard), International Herald Tribune (Indian associates MJ Akbar and owners of Deccan Chronicle) and The Wall Street Journal that much more unattractive in India.

The case becomes somewhat similar for the likes of BBC World and CNN, which announced on Thursday that it has entered into a co-branding deal with a proposed Indian-promoted general news channel in English.

Sources in the I&B ministry reluctantly admitted that it has been petitioned by some media houses to do away with the clause relating to India-targeted advertising and content in TV news channels as well as in facsimile editions of foreign newspapers.

A final decision on this matter is pending, but the issue would then have to get another Cabinet nod, which might turn out to be time consuming.

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