The government is weighing options to bring “legal sanctity” to the print media norms in relation to publication of foreign newspapers. But, under the same ministry, information and broadcasting, there are several other guidelines which also lack teeth. Guidelines for uplinking of TV channels, direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting, and private FM radio are among the government decisions which are not grounded in law, admitted an official in the information and broadcasting ministry. That is, there could be more cases of violation of guidelines, if “legal sanctity” of a government decision is questioned. However, guideline violations would not be so easy in the case of FM radio and DTH, as the licence conditions are binding on the players, the official pointed out.
A comprehensive Broadcasting Bill would address all the tricky issues of the media/broadcasting sector, it is understood. Currently, the government has some powers over the cable networks through the Cable TV Networks Regulation Act, but none over the TV or radio players.
For the immediate concern over re-printing of foreign publications in India, senior I&B officials met their counterparts in the law ministry on Monday, to chalk out modalities for an amendment to the Press & Registration of Books Act. A final view is likely in a couple of days, after consultation with attorney general Milon Banerjee. The controversy surrounding publishing of International Herald Tribune (IHT) from India is forcing the government to change its rulebook.
Besides an amendment to the Press and Registration Act, the government is considering enactment of a fresh law on publishing foreign newspapers from India, sources indicated. It would be a brief Act, if the government gets serious about the second option.
The government asked the publisher of IHT in India, Midram Publications, to stop printing the newspaper from the country as it was “in violation of the syndication guidelines and the Cabinet Resolution of 1955”. But, Hyderabad-based Midram Publications and IHT India argued that the “guidelines” lacked any “legal sanctity”. IHT is being published from India for more than 15 days now.
As of now, reprinting of foreign newspapers is not allowed in India, as per the Cabinet Resolution of 1955. Also, the syndication guidelines of the country limit the use of foreign matter to 7.5 per cent of the total newspaper content.