The Centre has approved new guidelines under which it has become obligatory for channels to telecast content of national interest and public importance.

 

Details

  • Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the ‘Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Satellite Television Channels in India, 2022’.
  • The new guidelines have been amended after a gap of 11 years.
  • Also, a number of steps have been taken for ease of doing business, as there are more than 890 channels operating in the country now.

 

What does the guidelines say?

  • Obligation for TV channels —
      • All TV channels in India, including private channels, are required to broadcast at least 30 minutes of content daily on themes of national importance and of social relevance.
      • The Ministry will soon issue a specific advisory on the date it comes into effect, and on the time slots for the telecast of this content.
  • 8 Themes of national importance and of social relevance —
      • education and spread of literacy;
      • agriculture and rural development;
      • health and family welfare;
      • science and technology;
      • welfare of women;
      • welfare of the weaker sections of the society;
      • protection of environment and of cultural heritage; and
      • national integration.
  • Exemptions given — The condition applies to all channels, except where it may not be feasible, such as in the case of sports channels, wildlife channels, foreign channels etc.
  • On Uplinking and downlinking —
      • Uplinking and downlinking shall be subject to clearance and approval by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and wherever considered necessary, of other authorities.
      • The policy mandates that channels uplinking in frequency bands other than C-band must encrypt their signals.
      • Broadcast companies will be allowed to uplink foreign channels from Indian teleports.
        • This would create employment opportunities and make India a teleport hub for other countries.
          • Currently, only 30 channels are uplinked from India out of the total 897 registered with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
        • Currently, Singapore is considered the hub of teleport uplinking.
        • However, after the new guidelines come into effect, foreign channels are expected to show greater interest in using Indian teleports.
  • Other aspects —
      • The new guidelines allow a news agency to get permission for five years instead of the current one year.
      • The penalty clauses have been rationalised, and separate sets of penalties have been proposed for different types of contraventions as against the uniform penalty that is applicable currently.
      • Requirement for seeking permission for the live telecast of events has been done away with; only prior registration of events to be telecast live would be necessary.
  • Compliance mechanism —
      • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will monitor the channels for the broadcast of this content.
      • In case non-compliance is observed in the Ministry’s view, an explanation will be sought.
      • If a channel continues to be non-compliant, more steps can be taken based on specific advisories that will be issued from time to time, and on a case-to-case basis.

 

Need for new guidelines

  • The government has argued that since airwaves/ frequencies are public property they need to be used in the best interest of the society.
  • However, analysts criticise this move by saying the, while airwaves may be public property, broadcasters had paid hefty fees for their use.
  • Any binding guidelines that adversely impact their commercial interests may not, therefore, be fair.