News channels can breathe easy. Even though the deadline for news channels to rejig their equity structure as per the government’s new guidelines expired today, a dozen-odd channels that had failed to do so can carry on operations till a new government takes over.
These channels had sent their proposals to the information and broadcasting ministry, which is yet to take a decision. According to sources in the ministry, the government is of the view that any decision on this matter could set off another round of controversy. A decision at this time could also be seen as a violation of the model code of conduct for the elections.
"If the government gives its approval to these channels, it could also be given a political colour. Same if the decision is to deny permission," a ministry official said.
The channels that have applied to the government afresh are Zee News, CNBC TV 18 as well as listed companies like Aaj Tak for infusing foreign institutional investment into the company. Besides, a number of smaller companies like Sab TV, Jain TV and a host of regional channels have also applied to the government for permission to uplink.
On March 26, 2003, the government had come out with guidelines saying companies offering news and current affairs television channels could not have foreign holding of more than 26 per cent. This required many companies to draw up a new equity structure for their news and current affairs channels.
Some of the channels like Zee News have applied to the government for an extension of three months so that the channel can continue its operations. The government has not taken a view on Zee's application for extension of operations. Zee had submitted its application to uplink its news channel early this month.
Although the official line is that it will take more time to examine the proposed restructuring of the companies, a decision is unlikely to be taken in a hurry.