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Crackdown on inactive TV licence-holders soon
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New Delhi: India’s over three dozen broadcasters sitting smug on nearly 200 TV channel licences face the threat of losing these permits soon. This is because the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry has discovered that 273 out of 475 permitted channels—amounting to nearly 60% of valid licences—are still not operational.

Prominent among those who have not furnished proof of their operational status are Reliance Big, Eenadu, Viacom18. Several channels on air have also failed to submit proof. These include Raj News, Sanskar, Colors, ETV Punjabi, ETV Oriya and ETV Marathi among others.

The decision to crack the whip on those squatting on licences is significant, since the government has been looking at supporting growth of broadcasting through policy initiatives, on the premise that the sector is showcasing unprecedented growth. Most business projections have painted a rosy picture for the sector and its higher contribution to the media and entertainment sector in coming years led by new channels.

“In response to our notice, only 202 channels have submitted valid proof of their operational status while 273 did not respond, which means they are not yet operational. Out of them, 48 were given permission within last one year while 37 have sought an extension, which leaves 188 channels who have failed to respond,” an I&B official told FE. Now, the I&B ministry will give 30-50 days more for the 200 channels to explain their positions, after which the licences will be withdrawn.

According to uplinking guidelines, broadcasters have to operationalise channels within a year of grant of permission. However, in May, the I&B ministry took a first-of-its-kind initiative asking all broadcasters with valid TV licences to furnish documents supporting their operational status. This came after concerns over the rising number of applicants who wanted permission to own and operate channels. Till a few months back, the number of permitted channels stood at 540.

The ministry may now adopt stricter entry norms, as suggested by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Trai has also suggested hiking net worth criteria to Rs 100 crore, apart from five-year broadcasting experience for top management.

Source: The Financial Express

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