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Media barons say Bill would stiffle media growth, freedom

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Sep 14 (UNI) In their final and formal response to the Government over the draft Braodcasting Services Regulation Bill,2006 media barons today strogly opposed its various provisions, saying they, in their present form, would ''stifle the growth of the media industry and tamper with its freedom.'' Their main objections related to the cap on accumulation of interest, composition and powers of proposed Regulator, exemption of Prasar Bharati from the proposed Act and the definition of ''current affairs and news channels'' among other things.

The India Media Group (IMG), in a letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said the proposed restrictions on cross-media ownership were likely to adversely affect the growth of Indian Broadcasting companies.

The broadcasters sought to point out that the present era was that of globalisation and consolidation by way of merger and acquisition for optimal utilisation of the resources of capital formation for the growth and development of the Sector.

They said the Indian media industry, especially the Indian broadcasters, have to compete with the global media companies in this sector, so in order to match the might of these companies, they must have adequate technology, capital and manpower resources, adding that the process of capital formation was one of the key ingredients to acquire and accumulate competitive strength.

They argued that the definition of broadcasting network service provider as contained in Section 2 (f) of the proposed Bill also includes the management and operation of earth station / teleports / hub. In order to uplink from India, many Indian broadcasters have set up their captive earth stations/teleports to uplink their own channels. The proposed restrictions would adversely impact their business operations, they said and demanded suitable amendments in the draft Bill.

They also expressed their apprehensions over the definition of "news¤t affair channels", saying it was very widely worded and takes within its sweep even the social, economic and such other subjects as are of general interest to the public at large.

This raises apprehensions in the broadcasting sector that an attempt is being made to bring even the "news content" within the regulatory framework, they said.

''A perusal of the wide ranging powers granted to the BRAI vide section 21 of the proposed Bill as well as the powers of the Central Government specified in section 5 of the proposed Bill which empowers it to direct the service provider to stop broadcasting its services etc clearly lends weight to such apprehension,'' they said.'' Further, they said, section 24 prescribes for seizure and confiscation of the equipments being used by the service provider in case of their failure to comply with the directions of Central Govt.

under section 5 of the Act, which might amount to direct intrusion into the freedom of media.

They particularly drew the government's attention to section 28 of the proposed Bill, which provides punishment of offences under this Act.

For example, they said, in sub section two of section 28 it has been provided that: (2) Whoever contravenes the provisions of sections 5 of this Act shall be punishable: (a) For the first offence, with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years or with fine, which may extend to rupees ten lakhs or with both,(b) For every subsequent offence, with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to five years and with fine, which may extend to rupees twenty-five lakhs.

These provisions fastening criminal liability are quite harsh and seek to treat and categorise the Broadcasting organisations as "criminals" even on a genuine difference of opinion with the political establishment on the matters of policy, news and views etc, the broadcasters contended.

They also rejected the provision of compulsory carriage of social messaging for ten per cent of their ccommercial time, saying it would adversely affect their business.

The IMG letter was signed by its chairman Subhash Chandra of Zee Network, Aroon Purie, Editor-In-Chief of India Today, Ajit Doval of KC, IPS-Ret, Vineeta Jain, Managing Director - Times Group, Markand Adhikari, CMD&VC - Sri Adhikari Bros, Gopal Krishnan, CEO&ED - TV Today Network, I Venkat, Director, Eenadu TV,) Girish Agarwal, Director, Dainik Bhaskar, Avik Dutta, Editor - Ganashakti, Shailalesh Gupta, Director - Dainik Jagran, Arun Arora,President - The Times of India Group, Mahesh Prasad, President - Sahara TV, Dr Prannoy Managing Director - NDTV India, Rajat Sharam, India TV, Siddharth Gupta, CEO - Channel 7 and Jankiraman of MAA TV.


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