Govt admits centralised content monitoring of TV and Radio 'non-workable'

NEW DELHI: A Parliamentary Committee has said that it is “unable to comprehend whether the proposal of centralized content monitoring of television and radio is really a non-workable proposition as claimed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry” or because it failed to get tenders.

In fact, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology which also examines issues relating to Information and Broadcasting Ministry has implied that the Ministry has come to this conclusion as the Broadcast Engineering Consultants (India) Ltd (BECIL) which is handling the project “did not receive any valid response to their tenders.

The Ministry has admitted to the Committee that “real time transition of content from FM and community radio stations to a centralized monitoring facility is challenging in terms of technology and IT infrastructure.”

The Ministry is therefore in the process of formalizing the complaints redressal mechanism by giving it a statutory status according to the Supreme Court Order of 12 January 2017 which has acknowledged self-regulatory mechanism in addition to complaint based processes.

BECIL, which is handling the project on turnkey basis, had invited tenders for the setting up of monitoring facility for private FM and CRS which did not receive any valid response. Real time transmission of content from FM and CRS stations across the length and breadth of the country to a centralized monitoring facility is challenging in terms of technology and IT infrastructure in remote areas. The Ministry admitted that the efficacy of such a system is “doubtful due to the information overload”.

In view of the fact that the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) has so far configured 729 TV channels though it has content acquisition facility for 900 channels. On being asked about the physical targets set under the Scheme for the year 2016-17, the Ministry stated that EMMC aims to configure the remaining 78 TV channels in the existing software set up. The configuration requires technical parameters for Free to Air (FTA) channels while in case of Pay channels it requires broadcasters to provide necessary equipments for downloading and decryption of the content/signal.

The Committee has been informed that the EMMC and BECIL are coordinating with the industry to obtain technical parameters for configuration of remaining channels.

The Ministry have said that though the initial target was to achieve monitoring of 1500 channels since 892 channels had been given license till 31st December 2016, the monitoring facility at EMMC is in tune with the number of channels which have been granted permission and the facility would be scaled up if required.

The Committee note that the budgetary allocation for the Scheme of Strengthening of EMMC was Rs 120 million which was marginally reduced to Rs 116 million at revised estimates stage during the year 2016-17, out of which the Ministry have been able to expend only Rs 74.2 million.

Explaining this shortfall, the Ministry stated that in order to stagger the deployment of resources commensurate with the likely additional channels that may be approved for uplinking/downlinking, an amount of Rs 20 million was being surrendered.

While the Committee left “the matter to the wisdom of the Ministry:, it desired that necessary steps are taken in the right direction so that the content monitoring for FM channels and CRS does not suffer and Rs 120 million allocated for the purpose for the financial year 2017-18 is utilized judiciously.

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