New Indian Media Minister to Review Sector

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New Delhi, India -- India's new minister ofinformation and broadcasting plans an extensive review of the television industry, takingan 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.(PBC).

Jaitley declined to discuss specifics on the dramaticchanges 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 thatindividuals can function within broad parameters," said Jaitley, who took office twoweeks ago. "Who are the present PBC board members accountable to? I will not allow itto become a fiefdom of a few individuals who will then use it for their own agenda."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Uplinking facilities from within India will beprovided only to companies with 80 percent Indian equity," he said. "We have noplans to extend this facility to foreign networks."

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