The Union Cabinet has approved the ‘Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Television Channels in India, 2022’, under which it has become obligatory for channels to telecast content in national and public interest.
While the guidelines are effective from November 9, officials of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting said channels will be given time to conceptualise and create such content.
Under the new guidelines, at least 30 minutes are to be given every day to telecast content pertaining to “public service and national interest”, for which eight themes have been given to channels for creation of content. The rationale behind the move, according to the government, is that airwaves are public property and need to be used in the best interest of society.
“As airwaves/ frequencies are public property and need to be used in the best interest of the society, a company/LLP having permission under these guidelines for uplinking a channel and its downlinking in India (other than foreign channels only downlinked in India) may undertake public service broadcasting for a minimum period of 30 minutes in a day on themes of national importance and of social relevance, including… (i) education and spread of literacy; (ii) agriculture and rural development; (iii) health and family welfare; (iv) science and technology; (v) welfare of women; (vi) welfare of the weaker sections of the society; (vii) protection of environment and of cultural heritage; and (viii) national integration,” stated the policy guidelines document.
Apurva Chandra, I&B Secretary, said, “After consultation with broadcasters and other stakeholders, we will soon be issuing a specific advisory pertaining to the time slot for the telecast of such content and the date of implementation.”
Once implemented, the Ministry, he said, will monitor the channels for such content, and in case someone is found to be non-compliant, an explanation will be sought.
The condition applies to all channels, except those mentioned specifically as exempt, officials said, adding that a detailed advisory in this regard will be issued soon.
The obligation will exempt certain categories, where this may not be feasible, say the guidelines. “The channels may… appropriately modulate their content to fulfil the obligation… except where it may not be feasible, such as in the case of sports channels, etc,” it says.
Officials said exemption may also apply to wildlife channels and foreign channels, besides live telecast in case of sports channels. The government will, from time to time, issue general advisory to the channels for telecast of content in national interest, and the channel shall comply with the same, the guidelines say.
Besides, it has been mandated for the TV channels uplinking in frequency bands other than C-band to encrypt their signals. For the uplinking and downlinking of a satellite TV channel, the application now “shall be subject to clearance and approval by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and wherever considered necessary, of other authorities,” the new guidelines stated.
The guidelines ease compliance for TV channels in various other areas – such as no prior permission needed (only registration) for live telecast of events; allowing Indian teleports to uplink foreign channels; easing permissions to the companies/ LLPs registered in India for uplinking and downlinking of TV channels; and temporary uplinking of a live event.
Broadcast companies will also be allowed to uplink foreign channels from Indian teleports, which would create employment opportunities and make India a teleport hub for other countries, officials said.
The new guidelines also allow a news agency to get permission for a five-year period as against one year at present.
The penalty clauses have also been rationalised and separate nature of penalties have been proposed for different types of contraventions as against uniform penalty at present, officials said.