Three days after BestMediaInfo.com reported how the Tamil Nadu government’s Kalvi TV sets dangerous precedence of ‘states getting into broadcasting’, the Centre has asked state governments to refrain from broadcasting and distribution.
DTH major Tata Play dropped Kalvi TV just a day after BestMediaInfo.com’s story.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting on Friday issued an advisory reiterating that no ministry/department of the central government and state/UT governments and entities related to them shall enter into broadcasting/distribution of broadcasting activities in future.
As BestMediaInfo.com had highlighted, the fresh advisory by the Centre will impact the Tamil Nadu government’s Arasu Cable and Kalvi TV; and the Andhra Pradesh government’s IPTV biz AP State FiberNet Limited and their recent announcement to launch a news channel.
Besides, there are several state governments running such educational channels.
The advisories mentioned that in case ministries are already broadcasting their content, it shall be done through the public broadcaster and will be required to extract themselves from the distribution activities via any other platform.
The government has given the deadline of December 31, 2023, to the ministries, to adhere to the advisory.
The advisory stated that as per the existing policy guidelines for setting up community radio in India, government universities, government colleges, government schools, government Krishi Vigyan Kendras, central / state universities including autonomous bodies and agricultural universities are eligible for setting up of community radios.
The I&B Ministry said that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommends that the central government ministries and departments, central government-owned companies, central government undertakings, joint ventures of the Central government and the private sector and central government-funded entities should not be allowed to enter into the business of broadcasting and/or distribution of TV channels.
The same stands true for the state governments and their bodies, according to the TRAI.
TRAI had relied on the spirit of the Sarkaria Commission's recommendations and the Supreme Court's judgement in the case of Cricket Association of Bengal (1995 AIR(SC) 1236:: 1995 (2) SCC 767) in its recommendations.
The Supreme Court had observed, inter alia, that state control really means governmental control, which in turn means control of the political party or parties in power for the time being. The court further observed that public service broadcasting should be in the hands of a statutory corporation or corporations set up under a statute and the constitution of such corporation or corporations should be such as to ensure their impartiality in political, economic and social matters and on other public issues and they should promote pluralism and diversity of opinions and views.
ln the context of the demand of some states to have their own broadcasting stations, TRAI had quoted the views of the Sarkaria commission and the Verghese committee and noted that in order to control the centrifugal tendencies, the demand for either a concurrent or an exclusive power to the states with respect to broadcasting cannot be supported.
The importance of Prasar Bharati, which is an independent statutory body, should also not be lost sight of. The TRAI has suggested that this body should fulfil the legitimate aspirations of government entities as regards broadcasting activities, while at the same time recommending the arm's length relationship between Prasar Bharati and the government be further strengthened to enhance its autonomy and functional independence.
The TRAI's recommendations have been considered in the ministry and in the spirit of such recommendations, the existing operational broadcasts in respect of some of the central government ministries/departments and some state governments have already been brought under the ambit of Prasar Bharati through a Memorandum of Understanding to ensure the continuity of such societal initiatives.
Comments from the Ministry of Law and Justice were also sought on the matter. Ministry of Law and Justice, inter-alia, observed that the view expressed by TRAI are acceptable. Ministry of Law and Justice has furnished its opinion that the central/state government should not enter into the business of broadcasting and distribution of TV channels.
ln view of the recommendations of TRAI, the judgement of the Supreme Court and the legal opinion given by the Ministry of Law and Justice, the ministry has come to the conclusion that no central government ministries/departments, state/UT governments and related entities should enter into the business of broadcasting/distribution of broadcasting.
Further, in order to implement the decision, it has been decided that entry of central/state/UT governments into the purposes should be done through the Prasar Bharati route, through suitable agreements between Prasar Bharti and the concerned central, state/UT governments.
At the same time, all such existing broadcasting, if any, of all central government ministries, state/UT governments and related entities as detailed in the TRAI recommendations will also need to be brought under the ambit of Prasar Bharati. Till the engagement with Prasar Bharati gets in place, it needs to be ensured that uninterrupted viewing of such ongoing education channels and other scheduled programmes are carried on smoothly.