the information and broadcasting ministry seeing two ministers,
--- not to talk about other officials being reshuffled ----
and a string of litigations relating to media guidelines
within a span of 365 days, it couldnt have been more
eventful for the government. A senior ministry official
aptly said, The amount of research work concerning
various policy issues and court cases that we had to do
in 2005 is quite amazing.
The changes at the top added to new pressures.
policy decisions in 2005 were taken when Jaipal Reddy
(left) was the former I & B ministry. His successor
Priyaranjan Das Munshi has a tough act to follow.
that apt summation arise numerous stories and angles that
kept the government busy with loads of paper work and running
around where the underlying message was: revisit existing
media policies and structure new ones. The rationale being
that the government needed to protect its turf
(read, control) even at the cost of looking interventionist.
If the cricket rights-related court cases inadvertently
brought the government within their radar screens --- that
gave some sleepless nights to the law ministry --- an average
Indians quest to seek legal redressal on any media
issue definitely made the policy-makers give another hard
look at policies and raise the question whether additional
regulation was needed or not. In most cases, the answer
came out as `yes.
for example, the media policies that were re-visited during
First there was CAS, which fortunately did not give major
heartburns to the government this year as the issue was
soft-pedaled, followed by the FM radio broadcasting guidelines
(finally implemented in a new avatar), the syndication and
foreign investment rules for the print media, the censorship
laws for films and music videos and the DTH guidelines.
mind it, in most of the aforementioned cases hectic lobbying
was taking place for and against various rules, not to mention
the penchant for filing cases. In some cases, the government
lost face too, prompting it to retaliate later with stringent
amendments to existing regulations.
the Bombay High Court ruled in favour of petitioners, high
profile newspaper editor MJ Akbar and associates, in a case
relating to re-printing and publishing content from The
International Herald Tribune in India under the syndication
rules, the I&B ministry after some months unveiled new
syndication and other guidelines for the print media vis-à-vis
foreign publication that seemed liberal, but was restrictive
when the fine prints were read.
a way, various court cases --- especially those related
to cricket telecast rights involving pubcaster Doordarshan
--- also acted as a catalyst in firming up governments
plans to bring about regulation giving itself discretionary
powers and control. The revised uplink policy and the first
ever downlink guidelines, which have been put in place upsetting
many in the industry, can be cited as examples.
the government was mulling amending the two guidelines cannot
be disputed. But certain clauses, like the one relating
to sharing of sports content with Prasar Bharati on a mandatory
basis (that has raised the heckles of private sports broadcasters
with Ten Sports and ESPN Star Sports again moving the court
contesting such a diktat in November-December), were inserted
forcefully and goes to show that the policymakers wanted
to tighten the screws on private broadcasters.
ministry secretary SK Arora: he will have a vital role
to play in 2006
in various industry bodies in the act of lobbying against
such legislation at a time when similar examples prevail
elsewhere in the world in some form or other didnt
a senior I&B ministry official pointed out, If
the same broadcasters could
follow rules and regulations, stringent or otherwise, in
other countries like China, Singapore, Australia and the
US, why are they so upset about them in India? Do they want
to have a free run in a country and still not pay back the
market thats the largest for them in Asia?
riders in the downlink guidelines --- a historic move from
the governments point of view --- could be debated
as stringent, but what cannot possibly be disputed is the
governments intention to bring about a regulatory
framework in the broadcast and entertainment industry with
technology breaking down access barriers and hundreds of
TV channels and content
delivery platforms emerging for Indians.
government did touch on most media-related issues in 2005.
But what should be done in 2006 is to try having a more
consensual approach instead of a confrontationist-cum-interventionist
one as an all-round bonhomie does make for a good business
environment, which, ideally, is the governments aim
as that is likely to have many beneficial offshoots for
the country in general.
the government handles the content regulation issue ---
primarily whether Indians are mature enough for adult fare
and movies on TV --- being debated at the moment, will be
an indicator of things to come.
here for Yearender 2005 Archives