Clearing the air on the status of sports channels, Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary S K Arora has clarified that they do not come under the news and current affairs channels, as apprehended due to the confusion in the downlinking policy guidelines.
Speaking to exchange4media, Arora said, “Though sports channels may deal with some current events, essentially they do not deal with what is understood as regular news. Hence, they don’t come under the definition of news and current affairs channels.”
The downlinking policy guidelines state, “For the purposes of these guidelines any channel, which has any element of news or current affairs in its programme content, will be deemed to be a news and current affairs channel.”
When asked about the stringent measures of not allowing foreign news channels to carry India focussed advertisements and the fate of channels like BBC and CNN, Arora said, “BBC and CNN have to make a choice. If they want to carry India-centric advertisements, they will have to dilute the equity of their India subsidiary to within 26 per cent or comply with the norms.”
He, however, maintained that there was provision in the guidelines for a case-by-case waiver for foreign news channels. “If there is justification and somebody makes a case, then the government may consider it.” But he refused to reveal under what conditions such waivers would be allowed.
Elaborating on the recent meeting with private sports broadcasters, Arora said, “The meeting was to identify events that need to be notified. We held preliminary discussions with sports channels, the Sports Ministry, and Prasar Bharati. We have agreed that more work needs to be done to get more data about what has happened in the past and what are the events that are likely to come up in the next few years. The overall number of days of programming that needs to be shared with the public broadcaster, if those events are notified, will also be discussed at subsequent meetings.”
Asked about the fate of the proposal for allowing permission to NGOs to set up community radios, Arora said, “The policy changes for community radio are already before the Cabinet, which has appointed a Group of Ministers (GoM) to examine the recommendations. As soon as the Parliament session is over, the GoM will probably meet and take a decision.”
Recently, I&B Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi had said in Parliament that the government was focussing to cover 50 per cent of the population in the Phase II expansion of FM radio in the Tenth Plan period, and 100 per cent coverage during the 11th Plan period.
When asked whether the Ministry had already started preliminary work for Phase III expansion of FM radio, Arora said, “We are still in the process of implementing the Phase II of FM radio expansion. Based on the experience and the response we get from the parties, we will start planning for the third phase.”
Giving his observation on the apprehension about the viability of FM stations in small cities, Arora said, “If interested parties think the revenue generation will be less, then they have to take that into account while making their bids.”