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Draft Broadcast Bill heavy on media monopolies

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, July 4 (UNI) The programme content part of the controversial broadcasting Regulation Bill apart, it has strong provisions for checking monopolies in the field.

The bill proposes to cap cross media ownership at 20 per cent and restructure the sharholding pattern. That would mean that a broadcaster cannot have more than 20 per cent stake in another broadcasting network, a cable network or DTH or a radio network.

If the proposed regulations come into effect, STAR would have to curtail its holding in Hathway Cable to 20 per cent from the present 26 per cent.

Just like FM radio operators, television networks too will not be allowed to own more than 15 per cent of the total number of channels. That comes to 30 at the maximum as there are a total number of around 200 channels registered in India.

If the Bill is passed, Zee Telefilms, that has the largest number of channels with more than 20, could be the first to be affected.

The Bill also limits the number of subscribers for cable and service providers to a maximum of 15 per cent.

Representatives of the broadcasting industry feel that while anti-monopoly measures were welcome, the provisions in the bill will limit business options for players in the field which was not good for the health of the industry.

The Bill also makes it obligatory for television networks to source at least 15 per cent of their content from Indian producers.

''I can understand the concerns of certain sections of media on provisions of cross media ownership restrictions... Media should be the last sector to have a monopoly. No vibrant democracy can allow accumulation of interest in print, radio and TV broadcast segment,'' Information and Broadcsasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi in his clarificatory statement on the Draft Bill said.

The Information and Broadcasting Minister had said''We have to ensure diversity of news and views. Such a system of cross media ownership restrictions is followed by all major democracies in the world such as US, UK, Australia, France, Germany, South Korea.'' UNI NAZ VD GC1914

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