Media, the fourth pillar of democracy, for a long time has been going through a credibility crisis. In the mad race of TRP and sensationalism, it has not shied away from giving a platform to anti-India forces or carrying out unverified sensational news. Time and again, there has been a demand to frame guidelines for TV channels so as to put an end to the anti-India agenda. The recent development suggests that the new guidelines issued by the Broadcasting Ministry have paid heed to these earnest demands.
Mandatory to air ‘News/Content’ on National Interest
On 9th of November, the Union Cabinet approved the ‘Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Television Channels in India, 2022’. It will now be mandatory for channels to telecast content in national and public interest.
Under the new guidelines, the TV channels will have to mandatorily allocate at least 30 mins every day to telecast content on “public service and national interest”. The channels can create content on any of the following eight themes. They can be related to 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.
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As per the government, airwaves are public property and should be used in the best interest of society. This is the reason why it has made it mandatory to dedicate at least 30 minutes of airtime to broadcast news on national and public interest in the above categories.
As per Ministry officials, the new guidelines have come into effect from 9th of November. But it has given due time for all the channels to conceptualise and create such content.
The I&B Secretary Apurva Chandra stated that after proper consultation with broadcasters and stakeholders, the I&B ministry will issue a specific advisory to fix the time slot for the telecast of such content and the date of implementation.
Reportedly, this will be applicable on all the companies/LLPs that have permission of uplinking and downlinking a channel to air public service broadcasting for 30 mins unless formally exempted in the guidelines. After its formal implementation, the Ministry will ensure its compliance and the violator channels will be penalised accordingly.
Other changes: Easing compliance and Improving Ease of doing business
The satellite channels will not be required to seek permission to air live telecast of events. Now they only need to do prior registration of the events to be live telecasted. They are also not required to get a prior permission for change of language or to change the mode of transmission from Standard Definition (SD) to High Definition (HD) or vice versa. They only have to give prior information about the same.
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The new guidelines have allowed the Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) or companies to uplink foreign channels from Indian teleports. This will be a progressive step and aims to make India a teleport-hub for other countries. This would also help to create employment opportunities.
The new guidelines have done away with the requirement of annual permission needed for news agencies. Now a news agency can get permission for a period of 5 years.
Further, it has allowed the transfer of TV Channel/Teleport to a company/LLP as was permissible under the Companies Act/Limited Liability Act.
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The government has replaced two separate guidelines with the new liberal and composite guidelines which will avoid duplicity.
Further, the government has rationalised penalty clauses. It has discarded the earlier system of uniform penalty for any type of violations. Now, the new guidelines have proposed a separate nature of penalties for different types of violations.
As per officials, the condition applies to all channels, except those mentioned specifically as exempt like wildlife channels and foreign channels, live telecast in case of sports channels.
With the new guidelines, the Modi government has ensured that the agenda driven news and content come to an end. This will be a major landmark decision. It will be crucial to improve the credibility of media houses that have taken a hit because of needless sensationalism, yellow journalism and giving space to anti-India brigades.
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