New policy for satellite TV channels lays ground for MHA interference

Given its political nature, it will discourage investors, says an industry source

May 03, 2020 04:37 pm | Updated 04:37 pm IST - New Delhi



To overhaul it’s nine year-old uplink and downlink policy for private satellite TV channels, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued draft guidelines with stringent provisions for any violations with an additional clause that the Ministry of Home Affairs can step in to revoke the security clearance in case of repeated violations.

The Ministry said a review was prompted by the “fast evolving broadcasting technology” and “changes in the market scenarios”. It has called for suggestions from the stakeholders in the next 15 days.

An industry source said the policy is a “half measure” and there are concerns about “too much reference to the Ministry of Home Affairs” which earlier too had a key role to play. “Given its political nature, the amount of reference to MHA will discourage investors,” he said.

What has changed in this policy is that the Ministry in black and white has listed out 11 violations. These violations include: “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” . For any of the 11 violations, the penalty ranges from warning, prohibition to broadcast up to 10 days and even cancellation of permission.

All channels have to take security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs, which was the case earlier too. Once granted, the clearance is valid for 10 years. However, the guidelines also mention that the MHA can withdraw the clearance which would mean that the permission to uplink would stand terminated automatically.

A welcome change is the relaxation offered for non-news category channels to broadcast live events. A broadcaster, who didn’t want to be named, said all sports channels had to take separate permission 15-days before telecasting a live event. This process has been streamlined. Instead of seeking permission, now the channel merely has to register online at Broadcast Seva with the necessary document five days prior to the telecast.

“However, there is still no clarity on whether permissions required from other Ministries will also be granted through this portal,” a source said.

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