The Home Ministry has declared that it will no longer review DAS MSO license applicants prior to grant of the license by the I&B Ministry. Actually it was the I&B Ministry who had insisted on screening of all MSO entities prior to grant of license. Interestingly, the I&B.........
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MSOs EXEMPTED FROM SECURITY CLEARANCE
A major factor that has been delaying the issue of DAS MSO licenses has been removed.
The Home Ministry has decided that it will no longer review DAS MSO license applications prior to grant of the license by the I&B ministry.
LOK SABHA STATEMENT
Responding to a written question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said the Home Ministry has recently streamlined/relaxed national security clearance norms for certain sensitive sectors of the economy including the media sector. The new policy guidelines are aimed at bringing about a healthy balance between meeting the imperatives of national security and facilitating the ease of doing business and promoting investment in the country, he added.
"These guidelines also include the proposal to do away with national security clearance for Multi System Operators (MSOs) in the media sector," he told the house.
NO CLEAR CRITERIA
The Home ministry has refused its approval, without providing reasons or specific criteria on which it has based its scrutiny.
As a result, almost all license refusals have been challenged in courts of law. The courts have turned down the Home Ministry's stand in almost every case, resulting a restoration of licenses and leaving the I&B ministry red faced.
According to press reports, the security clearance issue in case of Kalanithi Maran-owned Kal Cables and Jagjit Singh-promoted Digicable generated a lot of debate and differences between the MHA and the I&B Ministry. "There was a lot of correspondence between the 2 ministries," the sources said.
FINANCIAL NOT SECURITY ISSUE
The aim of giving security clearance was to prevent inflow of dirty money in the cable TV business. But it was felt that this should be taken up by tax authorities or the Enforcement Directorate.
UN-NECESSARY TROUBLE ?
Intermedia Cable Communication, is Pune's leading MSO who is also ISO 9000 certified. The Home ministry had revoked its MSO license. The order was stayed when ICC approached the court.
Expressing his view, ICC CEO & director Ejaz Inamdar said "We have been in this business for the last 25 years. What is the need to have security clearance for MSOs? This business does not jeopardise the security of the country in any way."
Digicable was similarly affected by the Home ministry. Responding to the report, Digicable MD & CEO Kohli said, "If true, this is the right decision taken by the government. MSOs are just delivery platforms of content. It has been a long-time argument that MSOs merely rebroadcast content and accountability should be with the broadcasters. Security clearance was an unnecessary hurdle for the MSOs. In case of broadcasters, there is a need as they are producing and dealing with content."
There is a huge backlog of DAS phase 3 MSO licenses pending with the I&B ministry.
♣ Some reports indicate that approximately 850 DAS MSO licenses have so far been received by the I&B ministry
♣ Of these, 222 permanent licenses had been issued till 22 July 2015. (226 less 4 cancelled licenses).
♣ 93 Provisional licenses have been issued.
♣ 28 MSO licenses have been listed as cancelled.
The I&B ministry has often stated that the Home Ministry's clearance took the longest time. If that is true, we should soon see a spate of new MSO licenses issued by the I&B ministry.
NO MORE PROVISIONAL LICENSES
With the 31 December deadline for DAS Phase III approaching fast and the MHA not being able to handle the volume of MSO applications, in June, the MIB asked applicant MSOs to submit an affidavit accepting provisional licenses. These provisional licenses would be cleared by the I&B ministry and issued while the Home Ministry approval was under consideration.
93 such provisional licenses have been issued. It would stand to reason that all these 93 provisional licenses will now be converted to 10 year validity permanent DAS MSO licenses. Also, the affidavit is now probably redundant and issue of provisional licenses will probably be discontinued immediately.
B'CASTERS NOT EXEMPT
In a quick clarification, Minister of State for I&B Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore told the Rajya Sabha that the security clearance continues to be applicable for all Satellite TV channel licenses.
He reiterated that security clearance is a prerequisite for grant of permission to run TV channels. In cases where security clearance is denied or withdrawn, action is taken to cancel permission, he added.
He also said that TV channels have to operationalise within 1 year after obtaining permission from the MIB in accordance with the provisions of Clauses 2.4.2, 2.5.1 and 3.5.1 of the uplinking guidelines.
In order to ensure operationalisation, a Performance Bank Guarantee (PBG) must be deposited by the permission holder, which is forfeited if the company fails to operationalise by the due date, he stated. n