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Explained | Why Do TV Channels Have To Air Content on ‘National Interest’ Daily?

The Centre said that since frequencies are 'public property,' they need to be used in the society's best interests.

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Explainers
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Explained | Why Do TV Channels Have To Air Content on ‘National Interest’ Daily?
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The Centre’s new guidelines have made it mandatory for television channels, especially entertainment channels, to broadcast content of "national interest and public importance" for 30 minutes daily.

It is part of the ‘Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Satellite Television Channels in India, 2022’, which were approved by the Union Cabinet on 28 September, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said.

The new guidelines have been amended after a gap of 11 years, the ministry said. So what type of content will have to be broadcast by the channels? And what is the rationale behind introducing such a move. The Quint answers all these questions.

Explained | Why Do TV Channels Have To Air Content on ‘National Interest’ Daily?

  1. 1. How Has 'National Interest' Been Defined in This Context?

    As per the guidelines, all TV channels, including private ones, have to broadcast themes of “national importance and social relevance”, including:

    • Education and spread of literacy

    • Agriculture and rural development

    • Health and family welfare

    • Science and technology

    • Welfare of women

    • Welfare of the weaker sections of the society

    • Protection of environment and of cultural heritage and

    • National integration

    Apurva Chandra, Secretary, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, said that the government will give any programmes to the television channels for broadcasting under public interest content. "The channels are free to create their own content on the themes mentioned in the guidelines," he told The Indian Express.

    What is the Rationale Behind Such a Move?

    The government has argued that since “airwaves/ frequencies are public property” they “need to be used in the best interest of the society”. 

    Representatives of several broadcasters told The Indian Express that while airwaves may be public property, they had paid hefty fees for their use and any binding guidelines that adversely impact their commercial interests may not, therefore, be fair.

    Will All TV Channels Have to Follow the Guidelines

    No, not all TV channels will have to abide by the guidelines.  Certain private broadcasters, such as foreign and sports channels, are likely to be exempted. The ministry will bring out a separate advisory regarding modalities for fulfilling this obligation after consultations with the industry.

    Officials said the exemption may also apply to wildlife channels, besides live telecasts in the case of sports channels.
    Expand
  2. 2. How Will the Govt Ensure Compliance?

    Once the guidelines are implemented, the ministry will monitor the channels for the broadcast of this content. In case of non-compliance, an explanation will be sought. If a channel continues to be non-compliant, more steps can be taken based on specific advisories that will be issued from time to time, and on a case-to-case basis.

    "The Central Government may, 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.

    When Will the Guidelines Come Into Effect?

    While the guidelines are already in force, ministry officials told The Indian Express that the channels will be given some time to conceptualise and create such content. The ministry will soon issue a specific advisory on the date it comes into effect, and on the time slots for the telecast of this content, the officials said.

    What Else Do the Guidelines Say?

    Apurva Chandra, Secretary, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, told The Hindu BusinessLine that the revised guidelines are being brought in after 11 years to ensure ease of compliance and promote ease of doing business.

    Among the steps taken, he pointed out, for easing of compliances, the new guidelines have done away with prior approval required for the live telecast of non-news events, and now only pre-registration will be needed.

    The guidelines also allow limited liability partnerships (LLP) and companies to allow uplinking of foreign channels from Indian teleports for beaming content in countries covered by the satellite footprint.

    This is expected to allow television channels of Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka to uplink from India, instead of Singapore, the preferred uplinking hub for channels beamed in the subcontinent.

    Expand

How Has 'National Interest' Been Defined in This Context?

As per the guidelines, all TV channels, including private ones, have to broadcast themes of “national importance and social relevance”, including:

  • Education and spread of literacy

  • Agriculture and rural development

  • Health and family welfare

  • Science and technology

  • Welfare of women

  • Welfare of the weaker sections of the society

  • Protection of environment and of cultural heritage and

  • National integration

Apurva Chandra, Secretary, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, said that the government will give any programmes to the television channels for broadcasting under public interest content. "The channels are free to create their own content on the themes mentioned in the guidelines," he told The Indian Express.

What is the Rationale Behind Such a Move?

The government has argued that since “airwaves/ frequencies are public property” they “need to be used in the best interest of the society”. 

Representatives of several broadcasters told The Indian Express that while airwaves may be public property, they had paid hefty fees for their use and any binding guidelines that adversely impact their commercial interests may not, therefore, be fair.

Will All TV Channels Have to Follow the Guidelines

No, not all TV channels will have to abide by the guidelines.  Certain private broadcasters, such as foreign and sports channels, are likely to be exempted. The ministry will bring out a separate advisory regarding modalities for fulfilling this obligation after consultations with the industry.

Officials said the exemption may also apply to wildlife channels, besides live telecasts in the case of sports channels.
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How Will the Govt Ensure Compliance?

Once the guidelines are implemented, the ministry will monitor the channels for the broadcast of this content. In case of non-compliance, an explanation will be sought. If a channel continues to be non-compliant, more steps can be taken based on specific advisories that will be issued from time to time, and on a case-to-case basis.

"The Central Government may, 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.

When Will the Guidelines Come Into Effect?

While the guidelines are already in force, ministry officials told The Indian Express that the channels will be given some time to conceptualise and create such content. The ministry will soon issue a specific advisory on the date it comes into effect, and on the time slots for the telecast of this content, the officials said.

What Else Do the Guidelines Say?

Apurva Chandra, Secretary, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, told The Hindu BusinessLine that the revised guidelines are being brought in after 11 years to ensure ease of compliance and promote ease of doing business.

Among the steps taken, he pointed out, for easing of compliances, the new guidelines have done away with prior approval required for the live telecast of non-news events, and now only pre-registration will be needed.

The guidelines also allow limited liability partnerships (LLP) and companies to allow uplinking of foreign channels from Indian teleports for beaming content in countries covered by the satellite footprint.

This is expected to allow television channels of Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka to uplink from India, instead of Singapore, the preferred uplinking hub for channels beamed in the subcontinent.

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Last month, Chandra had said that of the 898 television channels broadcast in the country, 532 use foreign satellites for uplinking and downlinking of their services.

"We want to deregulate uplinking to satellites under the guidelines so that India can become a hub," Chandra said.

Chandra added that the government had approved $102 million in remittances to foreign satellite operators over the last two years for providing uplinking and downlinking services to television channels.

"USD 102 million has been paid as remittance to foreign satellite companies. If we are to have more Indian satellites, the foreign remittance will be far less and will provide a great opportunity to Indian satellite companies," The Indian Express quoted him as saying.

(With inputs from The Indian Express.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  I&B Ministry   TV Guidelines 

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