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Monday, February 13, 2012

Fayyaz asks Governor: Why does Govt promote unauthorized TV channels in J&K?

In 24 hours, Div Comm orders DCs to take “immediate action” against cable operators

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Feb 12: A day after Srinagar Bureau Chief of Early Times, Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, pointed out to Governor N N Vohra at the IRIIS conference how Government was encouraging mushroom growth of completely unauthorized Television channels to discredit genuine media in Jammu & Kashmir, Divisional Commissioner, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, has directed respective Deputy Commissioners to initiate immediate action against the defaulting cable operators in Kashmir.

Sunday being a gazetted holiday, Kashmir Divisional Commissioner, Dr Asgar Samoon, issued the orders of immediate action against the defaulting cable operators through a social networking website. “It seems that some local cable networks have once again started broadcasting news n views despite Govt ban n in violation of the Cable Act, in some districts of kashmir valley like Baramulla and south kashmir. I am asking concerned Deputy Commissioners for immediate action against them per law”, Dr Samoon posted on his wall on Facebook. “I would also solicit n appreciate considered views of all organised media and public at large on the subject”, he added, requesting the stakeholders and common people to send him their opinion on the operation of cable TV channels.
Divisional Commissioner’s orders to DCs in the Valley came a day after eminent journalist and Srinagar bureau chief of Early Times pointed out at a conference that in violation of the law of 1995, government functionaries, including DCs and Ministers, were encouraging wild growth of unauthorized cable TV channels and granting them recognition with their own appearance in illegally running “news and current affairs programmes”.

Governor N N Vohra participated as chief guest at the conference organized here yesterday by New Delhi-based Institute of Research on India and International Studies (IRIIS). Country’s eminent political scientist and Professor of Delhi University, Dr Neera Chandhoke, editor of daily ‘Kashmir Images’ Bashir Manzar and BBC’s Srinagar correspondent Riyaz Masroor, were speakers at the panel discussion. Honorary director of IRIIS and author of two books on Kashmir, Prof Navnita Chadha Behera, presented findings of a survey on Kashmiri Youth and Media, at the conference which was attended by a galaxy of academics, mediapersons, government functionaries, businessmen, social activists, researchers and politicians.

Teachers and students of different departments of University of Kashmir, Islamic University of Science and Technology, Vice Chancellor of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology, Kashmir, Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone, former Director of Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar, Shehzadi Simon, editor-in-chief of ‘The Tribune’, Raj Chengappa and Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Dr Samoon, were among the participants at the second and the last conference on the subject organized by IRIIS.

Previously, the first conference and a panel discussion was organized by the IRIIS at India International Centre in New Delhi on January 27th. While as Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, presided over that conference and functioned as moderator, senior journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, Srinagar-based journalist Ahmed Ali Fayyaz and NDTV’s Foreign Affairs editor, Nidhi Razdan, were speakers at the three-hour-long panel discussion.

IRIIS is an autonomous, non-profit research institute established in 2008 with an aim to broaden the understanding of India in a globalizing world in an interdisciplinary framework. It researches on development and rights, democracy and pluralism, knowledge and technology, environment and equity, terrorism and political violence and global power shifts with relation to India.

A group of highly acclaimed academics from University of Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawahar Lal Nehru University, besides National Bureau Chief of ‘The Hindu’ and an authority on terrorism, security and strategic issues, Praveen Swami, Supreme Court of India advocate, Madhurima Tatia and Ms Jyoti Grover, founder director of Quadrangle Consulting and a specialist in organisation research on personality assessment, psycho-graphing and career coaching, are in the Core Team of IRIIS.

At the panel discussion yesterday, Ahmed Ali Fayyaz referred to the IRIIS survey on Kashmiri Youth and Media and asserted it was highly dangerous if uncontrolled, unregulated, unlicensed, unprofessional and completely illegal cable TV channels were permitted to feed “news and views” to the youth of 15-35 years of age group who form 48% of the total population in J&K. According to findings of the survey, 74% of the Kashmiri youth access news on state-run Doordarshan and Radio Kashmir. The survey conducted on sample of 1320 youth in Srinagar, Budgam, Anantnag, Kulgam, Baramulla and Bandipore districts, indicates that only 41% of the Kashmiri youth watch news on India’s private satellite television news channels like NDTV, Times NOW, CNN-IBN, ETV Urdu etcetera. On the other hand more Kashmiri youth i.e. 49% watch news on local cable television channels.

Referring to findings of the survey, sponsored by union Ministry of Home Affairs, Fayyaz pointed out that only eight of such channels were registered with the local authorities strictly for making and providing entertainment programmes to the subscribers. None of them was authorized by law to run news or current affairs programmes. He pointed out that the investigators found as many as 25 of such channels without any license, registration, infrastructure or professional media resource. None of them had any knowledge of Cable Television Network Operators (regulation) Act of 1995 or regard for programme code, ethics code and advertising code binding by law on all satellite and cable TV channels in India.

Still, all of these channels were found operating so-called “news and current affairs” programmes with the engagement of uneducated, illiterate staff, anchors, editors, programmers and producers. A number of government employees were also operating such channels and producing “news programmes” and even interviewing their own superior officers and DCs. He said it was all the more surprising that after the categorical ban on operation of such unauthorized channels and “ban” on “news and current affairs” programmes of the eight registered cable channels in September 2010, mushroom growth of such uncontrolled channels had been witnessed in J&K, particularly in the Valley. Over 50 of such channels were openly operating in Valley alone in 2011. “Ban” on unauthorized news programmes was in force nowhere other than in Srinagar city.

With DCs and Ministers themselves violating the law and appearing in unauthorized programmes, almost all of these channels---particularly in Baramulla, Anantnag and Kulgam---had been openly blackmailing hapless, law-abiding citizens. Everybody in the state and the central government was turning a blind eye to such uncouth broadcasts and a new menace of “social media” was being promoted by the authorities with flagrant violation of law. He said that DCs and other officials as also politicians, including MLAs and Ministers, were promoting and projecting themselves through this illegal platform and “reporters” and camerapersons of these very channels were fast eclipsing bona fide journalists and accredited correspondents at most of the government functions at district level.

According to some reports, government officials and politicians had fixed their own “hafta” (salaries) to operators of these channels, mostly former militants, and their “citizen journalists” were being hired by officers, including in Police, to trap their rivals in “sting operations”. Such matter was being uploaded on Youtube, Facebook and other social media sites without any fear of law and accountability.

Fayyaz pointed out that when a south Kashmir youth, albeit with no negative reputation, met with Governor previous evening, Department of Information proudly issued a bulletin, saying that CEO of a Pulwama-based “news channel” had a meeting with the Governor. He asked Mr Vohra as to what law in this country had allowed such recognition of quacks as bona fide journalists.

Even as Governor did not respond, Divisional Commissioner today directed DCs in Kashmir to initiate immediate action against the defaulting cable operators.


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