New uplinking policy for TV news channels

Thursday, 27 March 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: The Indian government Wednesday issued guidelines for uplinking of news and current affairs television channels, restricting their foreign stake to 26 percent.

Under the new policy, the majority of directors of a news channel that wants to uplink from India should be resident Indians, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference here.

The chief executive and head of the channel should also be a resident Indian, said Prasad, adding that the news editor or "authority exercising editorial control over news and current affairs programme" should also be resident Indians.

"It will be obligatory on the part of the company to take prior permission from the ministry of information and broadcasting before altering the foreign shareholding pattern and in the board of directors," the new policy said.

Permission for using facilities and infrastructure for live news coverage, irrespective of the technology used, will be given only to channels uplinked from India, it added.

Television channels that do not have any news and current affairs content could continue to uplink from India, irrespective of ownership, equity structure or management control, the minister said.

The guidelines will have a significant impact on business plans of foreign broadcasters such as Rupert Murdoch's STAR TV in India.

STAR TV had sought permission to uplink its independent 24-hour news channel that is slated to go on air April 1.

The request had been pending for quite some time in the absence of any clear official policy on uplinking for news channels owned by overseas companies.

STAR will generate in-house programming for its news channel after its agreement with New Delhi Television (NDTV), controlled by Prannoy Roy, ends on March 31.

NDTV, currently the exclusive content provider for STAR News, also plans to launch two 24-hour news channels in Hindi and English after it ends its ties with STAR TV.

A host of foreign-owned television channels such as BBC and CNBC have reportedly sought permission for uplinking from India.

Lured by a sharp jump in viewership and prospects of discovering the goldmine created by spiralling advertisement revenues, a host of Indian and overseas media firms are rushing to launch round-the-clock news channels.

While many sectors of the country's nascent electronic media industry have suffered due to the economic slowdown, recent years have been good for the news channels.

India's television market, including advertising revenue and subscription fees, is projected to surge to 720 billion by 2010 from 52 billion now.

Private broadcasters beam programmes through 40,000 cable operators to over 32 million households in India.
Source: IANS
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