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HomeArticlesAdvertisingCross-Media Restrictions, Foreign Investments & Other Licencing Issues
Sunday, 13 July 1997 00:00

Cross-Media Restrictions, Foreign Investments & Other Licencing Issues

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Apprehending the genuineness of print media barons extending their empire in the field of broadcasting too, the Bill restricts cross media holdings. That is to say, those having a say in print media are denied the provisions of having the same say in broadcast media. 

On this issue the Bill lacks clarity of meaning and generates enough hue and cry. Because it will have in its stride a few Indian Industrialists too. Mr. K.K. Birla, an upper house member of Parliament, who happens to be the Chairman of The Hindustan Times group, is unlikely to remain silent. Mr. Birla is a member of the Joint Parliamentary Select Committee. Since his empire extends to Home TV with a 30% stake, it might instigate him to come out of his profile of a gentleman parliamentarian. Then there are others too. 

Print media people put another point to suit their cause. They bring the fact that European countries do not pose any restrictions on cross media development while in the U.S. case, it has restrictions of some characteristic value. Like, Washington Post, albeit owns a television station not in the same city i.e. Washington. 

The same school of thought come out suggesting restrictions of print media in the news and current affairs section while paving way for them to extend their hegemony in Music, Environment and Science or Entertainment channels. The Zee TV Chairman Mr. Subhash Chandra who had been in all laughs with the presentation of the Bill will not be happy anymore. Boasting on his intimacy with the former Information and Broadcasting Minister Mr. Chand Mahal Ibrahim, he got its clauses suit his bill. But Mr. S. Jaipal Reddy as Information and Broadcasting Minister will not approve Chandra’s tasks. 

There are only two Indian channels namely Zee TV and Sun TV, standing to benefit amongst the several channels, although their sister concerns are running in losses. In this way we can aptly say there is not enough money with indigenous people to invest in the broadcasting industry. So, it is demanding that the government should encourage foreign investments. 

With DTH technology infusing some involution a bouquet of 80-100 channels is on way to India. To accord this bouquet its due reception, an investment of more than Rs. 12 billion must be in hand. Altogether it will take at least five to six years to pocket the first beneficial return out of it. 

In the light of above development liberalising the restrictions should be the motive. If we compare our Indian stance in comparison with U.S., it is like deviating from our basic angle of planning. How can India approve of investing that much on broadcasting. 

very unreasonable that an Indian can hold upto 100% (who bear); a foreigner upto 49%, and a newspaper upto 20%.”

“Media liberalisation has been adjustment has not been adjunct

economic liberalisation”

If Star’s Nikki Tonight show or CNN showing India without Kashmir is any indication how can we prevail to protect India’s vital interest subject to licensing foreign channels. Then the issue of public interest as the goal of broadcasting will not be at stand still. In fact we do not get broadcasting only for the interest of information and donating into the treasury of those involved, rather it aims at the wider goal of people’s cause. 

In lack of clarity of meaning how would the authorities be able to check the overtures of big cable operators against the smaller ones. In the light of thriving cable market, there are two opposing groups lobbying for their voice. 

Another pertinent point in this regard is allowing the big cable operators (MSO’s) to have their own countrywide cable channels such as Siti channel and In channel. Will it be termed as broadcasting? If so, can they have broadcasting as well as local delivery licences? 

The lobby of big operators, like Zee with its interest in SitiCable and Hinduia’s with Incable in their dancing dock, will be able to flout the rules. In fact they have gone one step ahead, asking for licenses in other fields too. Shall not they make a laugh of cross media restriction this way? 

The other lobby is a big group of small people. They are small cable operators, with their business extending to a mohalla or lane or road that too not without cross interruptions. They will be in peril i.e. there is lobbyism revolving round their sustenance. If we are not drifting from the social welfare motto of our Indian republic, how fair is the tug of war without any level playing field? 

The axis of all these discussions has pluralism v/s technological advances. Pluralism, if there is a will to make it exist, will not be able to survive unless we canvass very strongly for it. Because pluralism in our sense involves the fight of masses against the new capitalist bloc. Ensure the cause of social justice, Sir. S. Jaipal Reddy, Pawar etc. 


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