The government is looking to impose a levy on all domestic electronic goods like TVs, VCRs, home theatres etc and use the proceeds to launch an international current affairs channel called “Channel Asia”.
To be modelled on the lines of BBC, CNN, and Al-Jazeera, the news channel — proposed by the information and broadcasting ministry — would involve an initial investment of Rs 350 crore.
Besides the international news channel, a subgroup working on the issue under the ministry has proposed that a similar strategy be worked out to cover radio too.
The ministry is planning to set up a separate fund for the channel, with the resources being mobilised through a small levy on all electronic goods of domestic consumption in the information, communication and entertainment sectors. This proposed levy would be restricted to goods consumed by upper middle and richer classes.
While the channel would be funded fully by the government in the initial 5-7 years, it would be expected to break even and become self-sustaining thereafter.
Targeted at expatriate Indians as well as other viewers, the channel would focus on projecting India and its culture before the rest of the world.
There is also a strong belief that this channel should not be seen as a mouthpiece of the government — an allegation often heaped on government news agencies — and should have the ability to project its content independently.
The total cost of the proposed international channel would be approximately Rs 500 crore annually, apart from the initial infrastructure costs and it would have its own network of bureaus throughout Asia and key world capitals.
The channel would be available on terrestrial and Direct-To-Home networks in India and on cable and satellite, Internet protocol television and mobile platforms throughout the world.