Cable Operators to Get Jail for Airing Pakistani Channels in India

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New Delhi: Government of India will bring a new legislation in the Parliament to make broadcasting of Pakistani and other illegally down-linked television channels by cable operators in India a cognizable offence.

A New Delhi based newspaper reported the decision has been taken to counter the free availability of Pakistani channels in border states of J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat, and this time GoI plans to go tough on illegal downlink and distribution of these channels.

Quoting sources, the report said estimated 3000 cable operators in J&K, Punjab and Rajasthan are currently distributing Pakistani channels to subscribers without due permission from the government.

The new legislation will include jail term up to five years and fine up to Rs 5 lakh if found distributing Pakistani channels. The local police will be empowered to register an FIR, investigate and arrest an accused involved in distribution of these channels without a court warrant. The errant cable operators will also be banned from re-entering the cable business and their equipment will be confiscated by the security agencies.

The newspaper reported the in order to make the law effective across India, the necessary amendments to the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1994, are going to Parliament in next few days. So far, Indian cable laws did not have this provision applicable on a pan-India basis even though a number of non-permitted international channels are available to consumers via local cable operators.

This comes after the security agencies zeroed in on 25 foreign channels, with over half from Pakistan, that are being illegally transmitted in Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, parts of West Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and parts of Uttar Pradesh apart from J&K and Punjab.

Pakistani channels that are freely available in parts of India include the state-run PTV, PTV Home, and PTV World. Apart from these, several private channels including Dawn News, Express News, Waqt TV and Geo TV are among others. Rest are from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan, official sources told FE.

Even Al Jazeera News is illegally being shown in India while the government granted permission to only Al Jazeera International in December 2010 which is yet to become operational.

In a similar move in August last year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ordered for the ban on the carriage and distribution of all Indian television channels and films. According to reports, the carriage and distribution of Indian channels in Pakistan attracts jail term and financial penalty.

The report quoting an unnamed official in the Information Broadcasting Ministry said cable operators tuning in to such channels and distributing them to the consumers can not happen without any incentives being offered by someone. The analogue spectrum in J&K can only carry 45-50 channels from operator to consumer of which one-fourth are Pakistani channels then there is a definite problem

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