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Myriad I&B issues await new govt

13-May-2004
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Myriad I&B issues await new govt

In the broadcasting sector, some key policy matters have been left half done. Now, it’s up to the new government to take them forward. According to sources in the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry, the significant issues on which work has been initiated but no decision taken yet, include allowing funds from foreign institutional investors (FIIs) in the print media and in TV channels, with reference to news and current affairs.

The next government will also have to take a call on framing a policy on content regulation, framing downlinking guidelines for channels, and drawing up a new rulebook for private FM radio. Also, a decision to permit foreign business publications to print Indian editions cannot be ruled out, said a government official.

According to foreign investment guidelines in print and television, international news organisations are not permitted to have FII funds. As per current norms, only up to 26 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) is allowed in the foreign news entities. Sources in the government said that there’s a move to relax this restriction and allow FIIs. Quite a few news TV channels are likely to benefit if the new government takes a liberal stand on the issue, they added.

Content regulation and framing norms for downlinking have also been priority issues for the government in the recent past. A draft for a content regulatory authority was made sometime last year, but it was not endorsed by I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. However, when the need for censorship of programmes arose later, the ministry started working on the content authority draft once again. This is despite the Telecom Regula-tory Authority of India taking over the additional responsibility of the broadcasting sector recently, though none of the content issues are with it.

The legal dispute between public broadcaster Doordarshan and Dubai-based sport channel Ten Sports over sharing of Indo-Pak cricket telecast rights also made the government realise the significance of a law.

The guidelines that are being worked out would strike a balance between international obligations, commercial aspects and the role of a public broadcaster, an official claimed.

In fact, the Supreme Court, where Doordarshan and Ten are slugging it out, is expected to give a direction on such issues.

While FM radio privatisation is not seen as a success story, changes have been initiated, to be carried forward by the next government.

Meanwhile, a source in the government admitted that introduction of the conditional access system (CAS) was a mistake, “though it was a good idea”.

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