Updated: February 1, 2022 2:02:03 am
Hours after the Centre barred the transmission of Malayalam news channel MediaOne TV citing “security reasons”, a single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court on Monday deferred the order of the Information & Broadcasting Ministry for two days.
Acting on a petition moved by MediaOne TV, Justice N Nagaresh stayed the implementation of the government directive until its next hearing on Wednesday and asked Additional Solicitor General S Manu to get instructions from the Union ministry on the matter.
The court also issued notice to Planetcast Media Services Limited, which provides broadcasting services to the channel.
Following the relief from the High Court, MediaOne TV announced that the channel would soon resume transmission, which was suspended around noon.
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While there was no official word from the I&B Ministry, senior sources said the order to block the channel was issued because it had not been granted security clearance by the Home Ministry.
MediaOne is owned by Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd, many of whose investors are members of the Kerala chapter of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
After the transmission of the channel was blocked, MediaOne TV Editor Pramod Raman said in a statement issued earlier in the day, “The I&B Ministry has said the ban was due to security reasons, but the channel is yet to get details on it. The Union Government has not made the details about the ban available to MediaOne TV. We have started legal action against the ban. After completing the process, the channel will be back. We are suspending the broadcasting temporarily with the hope that justice will prevail.’’
An official in the I&B Ministry said the channel’s “security clearance was denied” while its licence was being considered for renewal as a private satellite TV channel in the ‘news’ category. Ministry sources said the channel had applied for renewal a few months before its licence expired in September 2021.
As per the existing policy, the licence is granted for a period of 10 years. The ministry’s list of permitted channels shows that Media One TV channel has had uplinking and downlinking permissions since September 2011.
According to the I&B Ministry’s licence policy, every channel needs to get a security clearance, issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, to get a licence to broadcast in the country. The security clearance is valid for a period of 10 years, after which the channel has to get it again.
Ministry sources also said that after the MHA declined the security clearance, the channel was sent a showcause notice, to which it responded before the final call was taken. However, officials refused to share further details saying the matter has now become sub-judice.
This is the second time in recent years that MediaOneTV has been barred from transmission. In March 2020, the Centre had imposed a 48-hour ban on the channel, along with another Malayalam news channel, Asianet, on charges of violating provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1998 while reporting on the riots in northeast Delhi.
“The channel’s reporting on Delhi violence seems to be biased as it is deliberately focusing on the vandalism of CAA supporters,” the ministry order on MediaOne had said, adding, “it also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction. Channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS.”
The transmission ban on the TV channel triggered protests in Kerala with the ruling CPI(M) and the Opposition Congress attacking the Centre over the move.
CPI(M) state secretariat said the ban on MediaOne TV was part of the curbs imposed by the Union Government on the media and part of its “larger agenda to bring media houses under its control”.
Opposition Leader V D Satheesan called the Union government’s decision “undemocratic” and “denial of natural justice”. “The government should reveal why it barred the transmission of the TV channel. The government is implementing the Sangh Parivar’s intolerant approach towards the media,’’ he said.
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