As the Tamil Nadu government prepares to challenge the Centre’s directives barring state governments from broadcasting business, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry decided to tackle this issue through the proposed Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023.
It is reliably learnt that the Tamil Nadu government, which owns Arasu Cable, sent a legal notice to the I&B ministry recently in response to an advisory issued in October 2022 directing the state/UT governments to exit businesses related to broadcasting/distribution of broadcasting activities by December 31, 2023.
The Centre issued the advisory to the states three days after BestMediaInfo.com reported how the Tamil Nadu government’s Kalvi TV was setting dangerous precedence of ‘states getting into broadcasting’.
DTH major Tata Play dropped Kalvi TV just a day after BestMediaInfo.com’s story.
The proposed bill 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 announcement to launch a news channel.
The bill, which is expected to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament, states that no person can provide broadcasting services or operate a broadcasting network without proper registration or intimation.
“However, certain entities like government departments, political parties, and public authorities are not eligible for registration, except for authorised entities like Prasar Bharti or channels operated by Parliament. Previous entities operating under authorisation must transfer their operations to eligible entities in accordance with the Act. The Central Government may allow registration for social objectives with specific terms and conditions,” the draft bill read.
It is important to note that AP State FiberNet Limited and Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corp. Ltd. secured the licence from the Centre under the digital addressable system (DAS).
It all started with the I&B ministry issuing a provisional licence to Arasu Cable, amidst an ongoing legal battle, in order to complete the digitisation process across the country.
The provisional licence to Arasu Cable, which continues to date owing to pending legal cases, set the wrong precedent and gave birth to an IPTV network run by the AP government.
Regarding the existing licences, the bill clarifies that any entity referred to in sub-section (2) which is providing any broadcasting service or operating a broadcasting network under any authorisation previously issued by the Central Government or under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, shall, within such period of time as may be prescribed, cease to provide such service or operate such network:
Provided that such entities may, in such form and manner and within such time period as may be prescribed, transfer their operations, assets, liabilities, obligations and entitlements to any person who is eligible to provide such service or operate such network in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
However, the bill appears to give an escape route as it says the Central Government, may, for the fulfilment of such social objectives, as may be prescribed, allow registration or intimation as a broadcaster or broadcasting network operator, as the case may be, under this Act, with such terms and conditions, as may be prescribed, to the entities referred in clause (b), (d) and (g) of sub-section (2) of this section.