Star’s application for uplinking its to-be-launched news channel from India may be going to the Cabinet, but the proposal is completely within the uplink policy of India. Although there are apprehensions that the 100 per cent foreign status of Star News, after its contract with content provider NDTV expires, may be a hurdle for it to uplink from India, the guidelines state quite the contrary.
According to the government guidelines, any TV channel, irrespective of its ownership, equity structure or management control, which is aimed at Indian viewership, can uplink from India. However, when teleports and uplink hubs are being set up, 49 per cent foreign equity holding is the limit one has to adhere to.
Setting up uplinking facility for a channel’s own use is different from establishing a teleport/uplink hub as the latter is for business purposes, explains an official in the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry. In fact, besides channel uplinking and teleport facilities, there’s a third category in the uplinking guidelines. That is, licence for uplinking to Indian news agencies. For this, the agency should be incorporated in India and 100 per cent owned by an Indian with Indian management control.
But, what if the government doesn’t clear the Star proposal? For that, Murdoch’s channel has backup plans. Star officials refused to comment on uplinking of Star News, when it is launched in April 2003. Currently, NDTV uplinks through Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd to Star’s Clear Bay office in Hong Kong, and then it is beamed back.
Interestingly, the uplinking controversy comes up at a time when the government is talking of a liberal uplinking policy.
Meanwhile, when a channel uplinks from India, it needs to adhere to the programming and advertising codes laid by the government. So, even as Star News, in its new avatar, is expected to follow the Fox style of reporting with some editorialising, it would have to stick to the made-in-India guidelines.