India b’cast bill at center of storm

BOMBAY — Opposition grows louder each day to India’s Broadcast Bill, termed draconian by some of its critics.

Business and media circles have been dismayed at the bill’s proposals to set up an all-powerful Broadcasting Authority, restrict equity participation by print media in broadcast companies to 20%, curb foreign interest in Indian airwaves and generally throw barricades in the path of such advances as direct broadcast satellite. All of this will now be the subject of discussion and debate, said Jaipal Reddy, the new minister of information and broadcasting.

The unanimous view appears to be that the Draft Bill will maintain government control on India’s media growth and opposes the joint-venture forays involving major foreign companies. It is especially seen to be pointing at DBS.

The Indian Broadcasters Assn., (IBA) comprising Star TV (Murdoch), Zee TV (part Murdoch-owned), Home TV (part-owned by the Hindstan Times, the New Delhi newspaper giant), Sony, Modi Enterprises, the Discovery Channel and Raj TV, has scheduled an emergency meeting in Bombay to discuss the bill’s restrictions on cross-media and inter-media holdings as well as its proposed licensing system.

Since minister Reddy has stated that the bill is open to change and has asked for industry views, the IBA intends to pen a joint communique it will submit to government.

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