Recently after laying down the necessary framework for uplinking by Indian channels, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has further notified new, stricter guidelines for downlinking by foreign channels with a view of gaining control over the content being broadcasted from satellite TV channels uplinked outside India. After a hard learnt lesson from the row that arose between Ten Sports Channel and Doordarshan a few years ago, the MIB has finally given approval to control and regulate the presence of foreign channels in India. Existing foreign channels like BBC, CNN, ESPN, etc have been allowed 6 months time to make the necessary changes to comply with the new guidelines. The policy intends to give Indian competitors the much-needed level playing on the regulation, taxation and legal front by bringing foreign channels within the ambit of Indian laws and regulation. Every foreign channel must act in accordance with the following guidelines: -
Every foreign channel must be registered under the Indian Companies Act irrespective of its equity structure, foreign ownership or management control
Foreign channels must have commercial presence in India with the principal place of business in India
The foreign channel must have secured permission from the concerned authority in the country of uplinking to telecast in that country
Foreign channels are not allowed to air advertisements or programmes targeted towards an Indian audience
Should be a standard international channel
Registration is for a period of 5 years (extendable) on the payment of 5 lakhs as registration fee and subsequently an annual fee of 1 lakh
Foreign channels must have a minimum net worth of Rs. 1.5 crore for one channel and 1 crore for every additional channel
Sports channels are mandatorily required to share national and international sporting events of national importance with Prasar Bharti to be telecasted on non-cable channels for public viewing
Prior approval of MIB is required for upgradation or expansion of any channel
Channels are required to keep 90 day record of contents being aired
The new policy is likely to work to the detriment of those sports channels which air an element of news bulletins, as they will be deemed as a ‘news and current affairs’ channel. The term ‘national importance’ which remains vague will to be clarified soon by the Ministry after consultation with the Sports Authority, Prasar Bharti and the rights holders concerned.
The GOI is following the footsteps of Western countries like USA where similar regulatory measures for downlinking have been evolved over time. The Indian Media Group (IMG) has welcomed the decision which is expected to give the government a better grip over the content being aired on television sets in India and to regulate the entry of foreign channels into India.
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