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Government eases norms for Television and Radio services

The Economic Times:  March, 2015

New Delhi: In another step towards improving ease of doing business, government has streamlined security clearance for TV channels and radio services. Government has issued orders that channels will no more need separate security clearance for subsidiary or other channels in a bouquet as was the case earlier.

Clearance granted once would be valid for up to 10 years instead of three years as was proposed earlier. Also, the broadcasting company and its directors will only have to give an undertaking of not being involved in any anti-national activity, rather than being verified by the police.

The order has been issued concerning community radio stations, uplinking/downlinking of TV channels, multi-system operator and teleport. Though all these entities come under the administrative control of information and broadcasting ministry, security clearance for their operation has to be obtained from ministry of home affairs (MHA).

The government order says that "security clearance conveyed to an entity in one proposal shall remain valid to other proposals (within the same sector). This means, home ministry sources said, that a company running 20 channels would not have to apply for security clearance for each separately. Earlier, a company had to secure clearance for each channel separately.

"The real estate sectors which launders maximum black money is without such checks and balances. There is no reason why TV channels and radio stations should be subjected to such rigorous clearance regime," a home ministry official said.

These clearances would be valid for 10 years, the order says. There was a proposal floated recently that security clearances be restricted to three years. TV channels have argued that just getting a security clearance takes eight to nine months. Thus a period of three years is too short.

However, there are exceptions to these clearances in cases where there is change in board of directors or change in the ultimate beneficial ownership of 10% and above in the company, expansion of existing community radio service license to border and naxal areas. Also security clearance granted in one sector can't be valid for another. This means, a company can't use security clearance granted to a bouquet channels to run community radio service.

The order further says that I&B will obtain an annual undertaking from the company and its directors that they are not involved in any criminal or anti-national activity.

I&B ministry, however, will ensure continuous content audit to ensure that subversive or anti-national content is not aired, said sources.