New rules on foreign satellite channels in India

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NEW DELHI -- India's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government in the forthcoming winter session of parliament will introduce a contentious broadcasting bill that requires all satellite channels beaming to the subcontinent to uplink from local soil.

The local uplinking of all Indian and foreign satellite channels from Indian territory will be mandatory, India's information and broadcasting ministers told an audience of information ministers from various states.

"This will not only help the country save foreign exchange, but also monitor [the] program contents of these channels," said Sushma Swaraj, adding that her government was endeavoring to strike a balance between the preservation of Indian culture and a demand for unhindered information.

"If we stop the free flow of information, we will lag behind. If we open the gates, there will be a flood," she said.

But the broadcasting bill has European, Asian and American networks alarmed. One of the key clauses to be included is the involvement of local partners in foreign channels. Broadcasters like MTV, TNT, Discovery Channel, CNBC Asia, National Geographic Channel Asia and the STAR TV Network are loathed to take this route, jeopardizing their presence in India - a market stuffed with 50- plus satellite channels since 1990.

Copyright September 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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