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FICCI raises concerns over likely curbs on TV channels

Representational Image | A draft policy by the I&B Ministry allows Ministry of Home Affairs to cancel security clearance of television channels at any point of time.

Representational Image | A draft policy by the I&B Ministry allows Ministry of Home Affairs to cancel security clearance of television channels at any point of time.   | Photo Credit: THE HINDU

The industry body has called for notice and hearing before withdrawal of security clearance.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has written to the Centre expressing concern over a draft policy that enables the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to withdraw the security clearance granted to a television channel at any point of time.

The industry body said the right to operate a TV channel is protected under Article 19 of the Constitution subject to reasonable restrictions such as protecting the sovereignty, integrity, security of the State, maintaining public order, decency among others.

Under the present norms, once security clearance is granted to an entity by the MHA, it remains valid for ten years.

Draft of changes

On April 30, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting circulated a draft policy guidelines for uplinking and downlinking of television channels. The draft guidelines seek to change the 2011 policy and one of the contentious provisions pertains to security clearance by the MHA.

The draft says, “Provided that if at any time the MHA withdraws security clearance to a permission holder, the permission of the company shall be forthwith terminated, after giving an opportunity to be heard.”

FICCI has suggested in a response to MHA and MIB that due process should be followed and the entity whose clearance is withdrawn should get an opportunity to move the court of law.

Time for legal option

FICCI said, “A due process requiring MHA to send notice containing reasons in writing for revocation of security clearance with minimum 30 days for the permitted entity to respond needs to be instituted and 15 days should be given to approach court of law in case MHA passes an adverse order with reasoning. Also, it should be clearly stated that the said TV channel(s) will not be discontinued till the proceedings before MHA are pending and time to approach Courts remains.”

Stating that “the right to operate a TV channel is protected under Article 19 of the Constitution as the right to carry on business of circulating commercial speech”, the Federation said such a right can only be subject to reasonable restrictions of “the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence” as provided in Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

FICCI also suggested that the table of violations and penalties be pruned and modified into “fixed financial penalties based on per day that such violation continues and if the said entity continues to violate even after being fined thrice, should it be forced it to suspend broadcast for not more than 24 hours.”

Few of the 11 violations for which the penalty includes cancellation of license are: “Delay or non-intimation to the Ministry about change in the shareholding pattern of the company”, “appointment of a Director without prior permission of the Ministry”, “non-removal of a Director who has been denied security clearance” or “showing dual logo/logo or name not permitted by the Ministry.”

FICCI also suggested that “not more than 30 days should be taken to clear all fresh applications” and “in the case of renewal permissions, not more than 15 days should be taken. If the timelines are not met then the applicant should be deemed to have received the said permission.”

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 11:01:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ficci-raises-concerns-over-likely-curbs-on-tv-channels/article31899694.ece

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