NEW DELHI: News broadcasters Saturday criticised the government for putting conditions of good behaviour for renewal of licences to TV channels, saying it was an attempt to "control" the independent media and demanded withdrawal of the new regulations.
The Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) asserted that content was the domain of the TV channels and it could not be "left to the wisdom of bureaucrats." In a strong statement, the BEA said that "across all democratic nations, governments have no role in issues pertaining to content" of TV news channels and "the Indian Constitution clearly restricts the government from assuming any such role."
It was commenting on the decision of the Union cabinet Friday that "renewal of the permissions of TV channels will be considered for a period of ten years at a time subject to the condition that the channel should not have been found guilty of violating the terms and conditions of permission including violations of the Programme and Advertisement Code on 5 occasions or more."
"With new norms, government is trying to control an otherwise independent electronic media by sending a subtle message that their permission to uplink can be withdrawn should they not ‘behave’," the BEA said.
The "net result of the new norms would be that an officer of the government can question an individual channel on content for four times on one pretext or the other and finally threaten that channel of non-renewal, should it not fall in line," it said.
Government sources, however, downplayed the BEA concerns claiming there were provisions in existing laws under which action could be taken against channels even for a single violation.