The News Broadcasters' Association (NBA) has noted with regret that the Cabinet's approval to certain modifications to the Uplinking & Downlinking Guidelines, including the one which provides that if a television channel is found “guilty” of violating the terms and conditions of permission such as violations of the Programme and Advertisement Code on five occasions or more, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting may decline to renew the permission of such channels.

In a statement issued here on Sunday, the NBA pointed out that there was no such requirement under the existing guidelines for renewal. There certainly could not be any power vested in the Ministry to cancel or “refuse to renew” a broadcaster's licence on their subjective view that a channel has violated the terms of the guidelines or the provisions of the Cable TV Act.

The statement said that the Ministry had issued notices to broadcasters on various counts. However, the proceedings following such notices had been conducted within the Ministry and not adjudicated, it said. Certain broadcasters had complied with the directions issued by the government by running apologies and even shutting down their channels for certain periods of time. To use such proceedings retrospectively and deny permission to broadcast was “wholly arbitrary, unfair, illegal and unconstitutional.”

Most importantly, the proposed modification of the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines was a direct assault on the self-regulatory regime, put in place by the broadcasters that had been encouraged and recognised by the Ministry, the statement said. Such a proposed step was wholly retrograde and placed broadcasters at the mercy of the Ministry; and was, therefore, a violation of the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression and would not be countenanced by the NBA.

“The NBA wishes to place, on record, its deep anguish to such amendments to the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines. The NBA urges the government to urgently review the regressive decision which would be anathema to the constitutional framework of our country,'' the statement read.

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