Cable Operators Block Indian, International Channels

24 April 2008

Srinagar: Cable operators in valley stopped telecast of national and international channel today evening. They have put most of the national and international expect Doordarshan and local channels off air as a protest against the central government decision of banning viewing Pakistan TV channels in Kashmir valley. However, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Government of India has denied any political motive behind the banning, beaming of Pakistan TV channels in Jammu and Kashmir. The Ministry has blamed that these channels were not abiding by the rules and not registering with the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Reports said that the cable operators in valley were feeding only local channels and took all other national and international channels off gear to lodge their protest against the central government decision. A senior Information and Broadcasting Ministry official told KTNS that the ban was imposed due to the failure of these channels to register themselves despite repeated reminders. 'While most of the foreign channels including the BBC and the CNN and other channels registered themselves within the stipulated time of six months from the date of notification, Pakistani and Middle East TV channels never applied for registration,' said the official. Since the regulations were notifified on November 11, 2005, some 332 channels have registered with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The guidelines issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) stated that the cable as well as direct-to-home (DTH) operators were barred to transmit any foreign channels that has not registered and paid a registration fee to the government. The guidelines were being strictly observed by the cable operations in rest of country except Jammu and Kashmir, where they were flagrantly violated by the operators by beaming Pakistani channels, the official said. While making it mandatory for channels downlinking into India to register themselves, the government had also banned foreign news channels from carrying advertising and news programmes designed specifically for Indian audiences. The notification also states channels, which carry a few news bulletins, would also be deemed to be a news and current affairs channel. The decision to prohibit ads is also to protect the Indian news channel business. This would ensure that foreign news channels do not take away a large portion of the advertising. On the mandatory registration of channels in India, the TRAI guidelines further stated that the entity applying for permission for downlinking a channel must be a company registered in India under the Indian Companies Act, irrespective of its equity structure, foreign ownership or management control. 'The applicant company must have a commercial presence in India with its principal place of business in India,' said the guidelines. Also, the applicant company must have a minimum net worth of Rs 1.5 crore for downlinking one channel and Rs 1 crore for every additional channel. As per guidelines registration was valid for a five-year period, which would then be extended. The applicant company will have to pay a registration fee of Rs 5 lakh for each channel and an annual fee of Rs 1 lakh. Official sources here said the regulations were aimed at to bring parity between the norms for facsimile edition of foreign newspapers in the print media and the broadcasting sector. 'Foreign newspapers printed in India are not allowed to carry ads or content exclusively targeted at India. Similarly, we felt that the same norm should be extended to foreign news channels beaming into India,' said the source. The guidelines also state that a foreign channel beaming into India must be a standard international channel and it should telecast in the country from where it is uplinked after getting approvals from the regulatory authority of that country.