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I&B Ministry to impose duty or cess on news channels?
The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry on Wednesday said it had no intention to control the news content of television channels, but can look into the their number space.

Minister of state for I&B Anand Sharma told members in the Lok Sabha that steps had been taken to sensitise the media on key issues involving security and safety of the country.

Favouring self-regulation by media houses in live coverage of sensitive incidents, the minister said, "There is no intention to control content of news."

Sharma ruled out any blanket ban on live coverage of sensitive incidents. He said self-regulation was the best option even as some members protested against the way live coverage of 26/11 terror attacks had helped terrorists and how reports of an ill-equipped Army had brought down the morale of the troops.

The I&B minister said in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, government had held several rounds of meetings with representatives of News Broadcasters Association (NBA), the Indian Broadcasters Federation (IBF), security agencies and defence forces.

"The NBA has drafted self-regulatory code of ethics and put in place emergency protocol to be followed during coverage of sensitive incidents," Sharma added.

However, though the I&B Ministry may not be keen on controlling the content on news channels, but a senior central government official raised a few eyebrows on Wednesday by suggesting that it was time to impose "some duty or cess" to curb the mushrooming of television channels.

Speaking at a panel discussion at the Ficci-Frames meet, Zohra Chatterji, joint secretary, I&B Ministry, opened up a pandora's box by asking the audience, "How many do we have these days? Some channels concoct news in their bid to gain higher TRPs. Is it not high time there is some duty or cess imposed, so that their growth can be curbed."

Recently, the government cleared up to 417 television channels, of which some 200 are devoted to news and current affairs, presently over 300 already exist.

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