New TV guidelines make it mandatory for channels to air 30 minutes of ‘national interest’ content

India’s government has directed television channels to broadcast mandatory content in “national interest” for thirty minutes every day in new guidelines released on Wednesday.

Under the “Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Television Channels in India, 2022”, released by the federal ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B), at least 30 minutes are to be dedicated to telecast content pertaining to “public service and national interest”.

The guidelines state that the directives have been issued as “airwaves/frequencies are public property and need to be used in the best interest of the society”.

The minimum period of thirty minutes is to be used to broadcast themes of “national importance and social relevance” including “(i) education and spread of literacy; (ii) agriculture and rural development; (iii) health and family welfare; (iv) science and technology; (v) welfare of women; (vi) welfare of the weaker sections of the society; (vii) protection of environment and of cultural heritage; and (7(viii)national integration”.

While the guidelines come into effect from 9 November, channels will be given time to conceptualise the content.

Some channels will be exempt from these guidelines as it may not be feasible to broadcast such content, the guidelines add.

This includes wildlife channels and foreign channels, besides live telecast in the case of sports channels.

“After consultation with broadcasters and other stakeholders, we will soon be issuing a specific advisory pertaining to the time slot for the telecast of such content and the date of implementation,” I&B secretary Apurva Chandra was quoted as saying to The Indian Express.

He added that once implemented the ministry will monitor the channels for such content, and in case someone is found to be non-compliant, an explanation will be sought.

Under the new guidelines, the government will also form limited liability partnerships (LLP) and companies to allow uplinking of foreign channels from Indian teleports.

This is expected to allow television channels of Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal to uplink from India, instead of Singapore-from where it is presently uplinked in the subcontinent.