Digitisation, FDI issues highlights of I and B Ministry in 2012

Digitisation of cable TV in the metros, clearing of a proposal for financial restructuring of Prasar Bharati, FDI in broadcasting and preparations for the centenary celebrations of Indian cinema marked an eventful 2012 for the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

Coming to the rescue of Prasar Bharati which is facing financial problems, the government cleared a proposal for its financial restructuring while waiving off debt of over Rs 1,300 crore. The proposal was based on the recommendations of the Group of Ministers on Prasar Bharati which was constituted to examine various issues pertaining to its functioning.

Plan capital support by the government to Prasar Bharati will be in the form of grants-in-aid only and not in the form of loan.

The ailing broadcaster was also assured of other benefits. Prasar Bharati in its turn tried innovations like telecasting actor Aamir Khan's programme 'Satyamev Jayate' along with Doordarshan.

The year began with Ambika Soni as the minister and the government trying to implement the mandatory Digital Addressable System (DAS) or digitisation of cable TV. The initial deadline of June 30 for the first phase was missed because not enough set top boxes (STBs) were installed in the four metros.

And three days before the deferred deadline of October 31, Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari took over as the new minister with Independent charge in the I&B ministry.
With a massive publicity drive, the ministry managed to usher digitisation in Delhi, Mumbai and partially in Kolkata. In Chennai, the matter is still pending in the High Court.

In 2013, the ministry plans to implement digitisation in 38 cities in 15 states for which the deadline is March 31.

The year also saw Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju making repeated demands that print and media needed to be brought under a stricter regulatory control.

Soon after taking charge, Tewari sent a reference to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to know how it can be ensured that monopolies do not subsist in broadcasting. The ministry also sought the telecom regulator's recommendations over entry of central or state governments and their entities into broadcasting.

Another important step which the government took in 2012 was to open doors to more foreign direct investment in broadcasting. The FDI limit of 74 per cent was allowed for carriage services such as Direct to Home (DTH), Mobile TV and Headends in the Sky (HITS).

However, in the radio sector, the much awaited e-auction of over 800 FM radio channels covering 280 cities and towns with a population of over one lakh could not be achieved by the ministry due to unreserved issues related to the mechanism for conducting the auction.

In the year, the ministry also drew up gala plans for the 100th year celebrations of Indian cinema and held screenings of movies at centenary film festivals at Puducherry, Dhaka, Ranchi, Geneva and other cities.

Dadasaheb Phalke's first production "Raja Harishchandra" was screened at Coronation Cinema in Mumbai on May 3, 1913, marking the beginning of Indian cinema and the ministry's celebrations which began in 2012 will continue in 2013.

Another important development during the year was the resolution of a year-long row between the I&B and Health ministries over the depiction of anti-tobacco messages in
films with smoking scenes.

The two ministries after a year of sparring agreed that anti-tobacco health spots of minimum 30 seconds shall be shown at the beginning and middle of films which have scenes displaying tobacco products or their use.

An audio-visual disclaimer of minimum 20-second duration on the ill-effects of tobacco use shall also be displayed at the beginning and middle of these films, it was decided.
On December 14, the ministry released the government calendar on the theme 'Bharat Nirman- Sabka hit, Sabka Haq'.

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