Regional broadcasters face new Indian regulator

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BOMBAY -- The recent transfer of India's information and broadcasting minister will provide a reprieve to multinational TV broadcasters who would be most affected by a new broadcasting bill that was to be presented to Parliament.

Sushma Swaraj, the feisty minister in the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government, was to have presented the bills in Parliament's upcoming winter session. But her appointment as Delhi state's new chief minister may delay the controversial bill.

Provisions include the government's right to sensor offensive broadcast material, a limit on foreign ownership, permission to uplink from Indian soil and issues pertaining to overseas repatriation of ad revenues.

MTV India, Turner International (India), News Television India, Discovery Communications, Sony Entertainment Television India and the Zee Network, all of whom operate either wholly owned or majority controlled channels in India, stand to lose most in case the bill becomes law.

India's Ministry for Information and Broadcasting is not headless without Ms. Swaraj, however. Her junior, Minister of State Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, is more known for issuing threats. He recently forced MTV India to remove the Indian flag colors from the channel's logo. Mr. Naqvi said it violated the Indian Flag Code and he threatened punitive action. MTV India said the saffron, white and green colors of the flag were donned only to celebrate India's golden jubilee of independence.

Copyright October 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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