Anita Joshua

Centre seeks better regulation of channels uplinking from overseas

NEW DELHI: The U.S. Government has warned that the six-month-old downlinking guidelines issued by the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry for channels uplinking from overseas and broadcast in India, would deter U.S. investment in the Indian broadcast media. However, with most U.S.-based channels already adhering to the new guidelines, the I&B Ministry is unwilling to modify the guidelines.

According to a paper brought out by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, these guidelines, "if left unchanged, will deter future investment by non-Indian broadcasters by imposing new, onerous bureaucratic processes, fees and litigation expenses; extracting new taxes; threatening revenues from and protection of purchased rights for broadcasting programmes; and restricting India-directed content, news and advertising."

The U.S. Government had conveyed its concerns about the downlinking guidelines several times to the Ministry. The guidelines seek better regulation of channels uplinking from overseas.

Media companies eager to downlink their channels into India have to be registered in the country under the Indian Companies Act, 1956, irrespective of their equity structure, foreign ownership or management control. Also, companies must have a minimum net worth of Rs. 1.5 crore in case of a single channel and Rs. 1 crore for every additional channel.

The policy also mandates that news and current affairs channels downlinking into India cannot carry advertisements aimed at the Indian viewers. All channels downlinking into India must subscribe to the Programme and Advertising Code prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. Also, the guidelines mandate that channels having the television rights of designated sports events must share signals with Doordarshan on a revenue-sharing basis.