New Indian Media Minister to Review Sector


New Delhi, India -- India's new minister of
information and broadcasting plans an extensive review of the television industry, taking
an equally long look at both domestic and foreign-owned players.

In an interview, Arun Jaitley, the new I&B minister,
said he will to review all legislation relating to television matters, in order to ensure
"greater accountability and transparency" in media organizations. As a start,
Jaitley has ordered a comprehensive study of state-owned broadcaster Prasar Bharati Corp.

Jaitley declined to discuss specifics on the dramatic
changes he has in mind, but said, "A regulatory mechanism is a prerequisite,
irrespective of whether Prasar Bharati is autonomous or part of the government.

"We need to create a comprehensive framework, so that
individuals can function within broad parameters," said Jaitley, who took office two
weeks ago. "Who are the present PBC board members accountable to? I will not allow it
to become a fiefdom of a few individuals who will then use it for their own agenda."

Added Jaitley: "The time has come for the Prasar
Bharati Corp. to become financially viable without in any way losing its thrust of being a
public broadcaster. It has to combine credibility with an overall quality

A lawyer by training, Jaitley is well known in India's
media industry, having represented several domestic and foreign-owned channels.

His views regarding the long-pending Broadcasting Bill seem
to be equally restrictive. He plans to again place the bill before a select committee of
parliamentarians, in order to elicit a fresh round of suggestions. Once the revised bill
is ready, it will be placed for before Parliament for action.

Jaitley hopes to widen the bill's reach by creating a
single Broadcasting Council comprised of different sectors within the industry.

"To start with, I plan a [review of] the cable law, so
that this, too, can be incorporated under the broadcasting industry as well," he
said. "I also plan to tighten the cable-regulatory laws in order to put a put a check
to the problems of obscenity and piracy."

In one of his first acts since becoming minister, Jaitley
issued a ban on Russia-based adult channel TB6.

Jaitley also appears to be adopting a wait-and-see attitude
toward matters concerning direct-to-home satellite TV.

"The DTH recommendations are presently before a select
group of ministers who have recommended that Doordarshan should be the sole licensee for
DTH," he said. "These will be made public next month. We will then take a
decision accordingly."

The newly elected government is expected to deal a blow to
foreign-owned networks hoping to uplink their signals from within the country.

"Uplinking facilities from within India will be
provided only to companies with 80 percent Indian equity," he said. "We have no
plans to extend this facility to foreign networks."