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Help Govt puts TV channels on tight leash
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NEW DELHI: The government on Friday introduced stricter norms for television channels, putting in jeopardy renewal of licence of those channels that have violated the programme and advertisement code on five occasions or more. The government gives permission to operate a channel for a period of 10 years.

According to a statement issued by the I&B ministry, renewal of permission will be considered subject to the condition that the "channel should not have been found guilty of violating the terms and conditions of permission including violations of programme and advertisement code on five occasions or more".

The new norms, that also include an increase in net worth criteria for companies, were cleared by the Union Cabinet on Friday.

The grounds on which channels can be said to have committed infringements are many. The programme and advertising code mandates that programming should not be obscene, vulgar or denigrating to women and children, offensive to a particular community, against national interest or against friendly relations with countries.

The call as to whether a particular channel has transgressed is taken by an inter-ministerial committee, headed by the additional secretary in the I&B ministry, that includes representatives from key ministries. The ministry has an electronic media monitoring centre that keeps tabs on TV content.

The I&B ministry explained the changes in guidelines on uplinking and downlinking of TV channels by saying that it was meant to deter fly-by-night operators and to ensure that only "serious and credible operators are permitted to operate such channels and the electronic media landscape is not unnecessarily crowded by non-serious players''.

Since August 2011, the ministry has given permission to 745 TV channels of which 366 are news and current affairs channels. There are over 300 applications pending before the ministry. Officials said the new norms would provide control over the mushrooming of non-serious ventures.

Channels operating in India and uplinked from India but meant only for foreign viewership are now required to ensure compliance of rules and regulations of the target country for which content is being produced and uplinked.

Among other amendments, net worth criteria for non-news and current affairs channels and downlinking of foreign channels has been revised from Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 5 crore for the first channel and Rs 2.5 crore for each additional channel. For uplinking of news and current affairs channels, the net worth criteria has been increased from Rs 3 crore to Rs 20 crore for the first channel and Rs 5 crore for each additional channel.

For teleports, the net worth criteria has been retained at Rs 3 crore for the first teleport and Rs 1 crore for every additional teleport. The norms also mandate a minimum experience of three years for top management officials in TV channels.

Permission for downlinking TV channels uplinked from abroad will be Rs 15 lakh per annum while fee for downlinking of TV channels uplinked from India will be Rs 5 lakh per channel per annum.

Source: The Times Of India

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