Home min tightens screws on TV channels. Director credentials to be reverified every 3 yrs

22 Oct,2013

By A Correspondent


Television channels will have to get the credentials of their directors re-verified by the Union home ministry every three years, creating a major stumbling block in their smooth functioning. Adding to the bureaucratic hurdles, sources also said that directors would have to be cleared by MHA every time the same TV company launches a new channel.


At present, the process of clearance of directors’ credentials by MHA has no time limit and can meander on for months, even years.


Until now, security clearances given by the home ministry to TV channels was not time-bound, and companies were only required to report any change in their board of directors to the I&B ministry, which in turn would seek a clearance from the home ministry. There was also no requirement to have fresh MHA clearance every time the same company launched a new channel.


Every broadcaster is granted a licence for 10 years, but after the home ministry clears all the directors on the company’s board.


A few months ago, the I&B ministry had sent a letter to the home ministry seeking information on the validity of clearances for broadcasters. There was no such validity prescribed by the home ministry until then, but after I&B ministry’s query, MHA replied that security clearances would be valid only for a three-year period.


KVL Narayan Rao

KVL Narayan Rao, executive vice-chairperson, NDTV Group and president, News Broadcasters Association, said he is yet to see the ministry order but said all broadcaster will be affected. “If true, it’s bizarre, absurd and will affect the operations of all broadcasters – both proposed and existing.”


He said approvals from the MHA take up to two years and if the nod for a director has a validity of just three years, existing broadcasters too will be affected. “Is this some way to regulate the media?” he questioned.


Ashok Venkatramani, CEO of Media Content & Communication Services, that owns channels such as ABP News, said the move could cause delays in the launch of new channels as such approvals require 3-6 months. He questioned the rationale of the move: “Why does an Indian broadcaster, all directors of which are Indians, require an approval from India’s home ministry? Such a stipulation might be reasonable for an MNC broadcaster with foreign directors, not otherwise.”


There are close to 300 companies running over 800 television channels in the country today. This move would mean that all clearances given to channels prior to October 2010-a majority of channels received clearances before this date -will be reviewed again by MHA and is likely to have a major impact on running of businesses.


“We would visualise that the ministry should streamline processes, rationalise them rather than increase them. This is a repetition of a process,” Sunil Lulla, managing director and chief executive officer of Times Television Network.


The query by the I&B ministry a few months back has also meant all new permissions issued by the ministry have stopped for the last six months, the last one being granted in May 2013.


Another important fallout is that the I&B ministry has now started referring all new applications by broadcasters to MHA for their clearance, even if the application is by a registered broadcaster. Earlier, the ministry used to process new applications of registered broadcasters without any reference to MHA, unless if there was a change in the Board of Directors of the company.


Source:The Economic Times

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