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Monitoring TV Channels: Guidelines exist, implementation fails miserably

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In July this year, a string of complaints have been received against the telecast of Peace TV of Zakir Naik by cable operators. Peace TV does not have the valid permission from the government for transmission through cable networks.  A look at the data reveals that while guidelines for monitoring TV channels exist, the implementation has failed miserably.

After the recent terror attacks by ISIS in Bangladesh, the controversial preacher Zakir Naik and his Peace TV have come under immense scrutiny and there is a renewed debate on monitoring the content on TV Channels. Information shared by the government in the Lok Sabha indicates that as many as five different complaints were received against the telecast of Peace TV in various local cable networks. While guidelines for monitoring & regulation exist, available data & information shows that the implementation has failed to a great extent.

Regulation of TV Channels

The Cable TV Network (Regulation) Act, 1995, regulates the transmission and re-transmission of TV channels over the Cable Networks. The Authorized Officers (the District Magistrates, the Additional District Magistrates, the Sub-Divisional Magistrates and the Commissioners of Police within their territorial jurisdiction) under the Act are empowered to take action whenever violations of the Cable Act, 1995 are brought to notice. Under the Cable TV Networks Rules, 1994, no cable operator is supposed to carry or include in his cable service any TV broadcast or channel, which has not been registered by the Central Government for being viewed within the territory of India.

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting grants permission to TV channels under two categories i.e. ‘Non-News & Current Affairs TV Channels’ and ‘News & Current Affairs TV channels’ in accordance with the Policy Guidelines for Uplinking/ Downlinking of Satellite TV channels. All these companies are bound by the terms of permission, which also include security related conditions.

In addition, the cable operators can also transmit local (ground based) channels as per the Cable Act. But, the registration procedure for these channels is not defined in the Act.

892 Private Satellite TV Channels currently have permission to operate in India

As of 30th June 2016, a total of 892 private satellite TV channels have valid permission to operate from India (either uplink or downlink). Though 1031 channels have been granted permission till date, permissions to 139 channels have been cancelled. A total of 131 new TV channels have been given permission to operate in India from 2012 to 2015 (till November). 99 of the 131 channels are in the Non-News category.

Regulation of TV Channels_Number of private channels

Out of the 892 channels, 776 channels are permitted to both uplink from India and also downlink into India. 20 channels are only permitted to uplink from India while 96 other channels are only permitted to downlink into India. Majority of the downlink only channels are in the Non-News category. Many foreign channels are in the downlink only category while Indian channels catering to a global audience are uplink only like Raj TV Asia, Star Plus South East, Star Plus Middle East, Star Cricket Asia, Zee TV Russia etc.

Regulation of TV Channels_Number of private channels with permission

Five complaints on Peace TV of Zakir Naik in July alone

As per the information shared in the parliament, the government made an appeal on Social Media platforms to report cases of transmission of unpermitted satellite TV channels by cable operators. Five such complaints were received on Peace TV in July alone. These complaints were forwarded to the respective district collectors for necessary action. The following five complaints were received

  • Complaint dated 09.07.2016 from T.G. Venkatesh, MP (RS) against Seema Communication Pvt. Ltd. for telecasting non permitted satellite channel ‘Peace TV’ in Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh. Office of Seema Communication Pvt. Ltd. has been sealed and equipment seized and FIR lodged against him.
  • Complaint dated 12.07.2016 from Vinay Patil against Yashodeep Cable Network for transmission of Peace TV in Aurangabad District of Maharashtra. It has been reported that after inspection, the deputy commissioner found that this channel was not being carried out by the M/s Yashodeep Cable Network.
  • Complaint dated 07.07.2016 from Kuldeep Kumar Sahani against Venkata Sai Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. for illegal transmission of Peace TV in Nizamabad District of Telangana.
  • Complaint dated 09.07.2016 from A. Thirupathi Reddy for transmission of un-authorized ‘Peace TV’ Channel by Sri Sai Communications in Karimnagar District of Telangana.
  • Complaint dated 08.07.2016 from Nandyal Digital TV Communications against Siti Vision Digital Media Pvt. Ltd. for illegal transmission of Peace TV in Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh.

The government has said that it had issued advisories to the Chief Secretaries of all States/UTs Governments, the District Collectors and the MSOs/LCOs that no un-permitted satellite channel should be carried by the cable operators in the country and to take action against the defaulters as per the provisions in the Cable Act.

Regulation of TV Channels_government advisory

Guidelines exist, but implementation & monitoring fails

While it seems that there is some action on the complaints against Peace TV, it could only be because of the intense scrutiny from all quarters.  The action on complaints and violations by other TV channels is miserable to say the least.

The Cable TV Network rules lays down restrictions on the kind of content that can be broadcast on these TV channels. Though the guidelines list down the restricted content in great detail, the monitoring has left much to be desired. For instance,

Failure to take action on violations by TV Channels: As Factly reported earlier, the government has taken action only in a handful of cases though the EMMC has reported thousands of violations. Further, the EMMC currently monitors only 600 odd channels out of the 892 that have valid permission. The government has recently sent a notice to 182 channels to provide technical details for the purpose of monitoring.

Only 296 districts have monitoring committees: Though the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has issued advisories to the State Governments and Union Territories to constitute State and District Level Monitoring Committees for recommending action against violation of the Program Code and the Advertisement Code. Only 19 states have these committees in place as of October 2015. Worse still, only 296 of the more than 600 odd districts have setup monitoring committees.

Featured Image: Peace TV

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