State governments cannot enter into broadcasting on their own: I&B Ministry

Source: The post is based on the article “State governments cannot enter into broadcasting on their own: I&B Ministry” published in The Hindu on 22nd October 2022.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting(MIB) has issued an advisory stating that the Central, State and Union Territories Governments as well as ministries and government departments should not be in the business of broadcasting/ distribution of TV channels.

Those already broadcasting their content have been told to get it done through the public broadcaster, Prasar Bharati and the entities distributing the broadcasting content have been asked to “extract themselves” from it by December 31, 2023.

Why has this advisory been issued?

The advisory has been issued based on following reasons:

The exclusive privilege of Centre in respect of telegraphs: The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry is the nodal agency for all the matters related to broadcasting as Section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 gives exclusive privilege in respect of telegraphs and power to grant licenses to the Central Government.

TRAI recommendations: In 2012, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) suggested that the Central and State governments, their companies, undertakings, joint ventures with the private sector and the entities funded by the governments should not be allowed to enter the business of broadcasting or distribution of TV channels.

– It relied upon the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendation and the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of the Cricket Association of Bengal.

– In this judgment, the Supreme Court had observed that state control really meant governmental control which in turn meant control of the political party or parties in power for the time being. 

– The court had further observed that public service broadcasting should be in the hands of a corporation (s) set up under a statute and the constitution of such a corporation (s) should be such as to ensure their impartiality in political, economic and social matters and on other public issues. They should promote pluralism and diversity of opinions and views, said the advisory.

Ministry of Law and Justice recommendations: It suggested that the central/ state government should not enter into the business of broadcasting and distribution of TV channels.

Importance of Prasar Bharati should not be lost: The importance of Prasar Bharati, which is an independent statutory body, should not be lost sight of. The TRAI has suggested that the body should fulfil the legitimate aspirations of government entities as regards broadcasting activities, while at the same time recommending the ‘arm’s length’ relationship between Prasar Bharati and the government be further strengthened to enhance its autonomy and functional independence.

What is the impact of this advisory?

The advisory may have political implications as among those who could be impacted by the advisory are Tamil Nadu’s Kalvi TV and Arasu Cable, besides the Andhra Pradesh government’s IPTV.

Note: Under the existing policy guidelines, government universities, colleges, schools, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, certain autonomous bodies and agricultural universities are eligible to set up community radios.

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