Broadcaster`s body rues power to reject licences

National Broadcasters` Assn expressed regret over a Cabinet decision which empowers I&B Ministry to decline renewal of licenses of TV channels.

New Delhi: The National Broadcasters`
Association on Sunday expressed regret over a Cabinet decision
which empowers the I&B Ministry to decline renewal of licenses
of TV channels if they are found violating the terms of its
"subjective" assessment.

In a statement, the NBA said it notes with regret that
the Cabinet has purportedly approved certain modifications to
the uplinking and downlinking guidelines.

This includes a provision which provides that if a TV
channel is found "guilty" of violating the terms and
conditions of permission, including violations of programme
and advertisement code on five occasions or more, the Ministry
may decline to renew the permission of such channels.

"Firstly, there is no such requirement under the existing
uplinking and downlinking guidelines for renewal. Secondly,
there certainly cannot be any power vested in the Ministry to
cancel or `refuse to renew` a broadcaster`s license on their
subjective view that a TV channel has violated the terms of
the guidelines or the provisions of the Cable TV Act," it

The body noted that in the past the Information and
Broadcasting Ministry has issued show cause notices to
broadcasters on various counts.

"However, the proceedings pursuant to such notices have
been conducted internally within the ministry and never has
been in the nature of adjudication. Be that as it may, certain
other broadcasters have complied with directions issued by the
ministry for running apologies and even shutting down their
channels for certain periods of time," the association said in
its statement.

"To now retrospectively use such proceedings to deny
permission to broadcast for future is wholly arbitrary,
unfair, illegal and unconstitutional," it added.

The NBA described the proposed modification of the
uplinking and downlinking guidelines as a "direct assault" on
the self-regulatory regime put in place by broadcasters, which
has been encouraged and recognised by the I&B Ministry.

"Such proposed step is wholly retrograde and places
broadcasters at the arbitrary mercy of the ministry and is
therefore a violation of the constitutional right to freedom
of speech and expression and will not be countenanced by the
NBA," it said.

Expressing anguish at this step, the NBA urged the
government to "urgently review the regressive decision" which
would be "anathema to the constitutional framework of our

The association is seeking an appointment with
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni to explain
and clarify its concerns.


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