Indian Govt may ban Dr. Zakir Naik’s ‘Peace TV’ for ‘hate propaganda’.

published on December 6, 2012
Hate channels which are illegally down-linked and freely available to viewers near the India-Pakistan and north-eastern borders have become important weapons in the psychological war against India.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has red flagged 24 “illegal” foreign channels for beaming anti-India programmes. The potential for mischief by these channels was serious enough for the government to concede in Parliament:

“The content of some of these channels is not conducive to the security environment in the country and poses a potential security hazard.”

The government has initiated steps to enhance the penal provisions for beaming such channels. Amendments to the Cable TV Act, which will include higher fines apart from the existing jail provisions, are ready to be introduced in Parliament.

The government’s move to block the channels follows a spate of communal incidents in Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad, Assam, Srinagar, Mumbai and other parts of India in recent months following motivated reports.

However, the authorities find it difficult to jam all channels. Encouraged by this lack of control and easily available in the border areas and even elsewhere, these channels are brought into homes via cable TV.

Ajit Doval, former director of the Intelligence Bureau, said, “If these channels are indulging in anti-national and seditious activities which are detrimental to the security of the country, then the government should take suitable legal action and a technological response to counter them.”

Most hate channels focus on news or religious affairs. Pakistani TV channels identified as being stridently anti-India include QTV, Madani TV, ARY TV, the official broadcaster PTV, PTV Home, PTV World, Geo TV, Dawn, Express, Waqat, Noor TV, Hadi TV, Aaj, Filmax and STV. They are available in Jammu Kashmir and Punjab.

Other TV channels that are illegally down-linked into India and are known to spew malicious content include Peace TV (Dubai), Saudi TV, TV Maldives, NTV (Bangladesh), XYZ TV, Nepal TV, Kantipur (Nepal), Ahmedia Channel (UK-based) and Bhutan Broadcasting Service. These channels are watched in the north-eastern states and in areas bordering Nepal.

Sources said channels like QTV and Indian preacher Zakir Naik-run Peace TV are also available through cable TV operators in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Many cable operators are unaware that it is illegal to air these channels.

Indian viewers are drawn to the illegally shown TV channels because of the entertainment programmes they show. For instance, Pakistan’s official broadcaster PTV has a dedicated following for its highly popular drama and comedy shows. But, it is illegal in India. The channel was banned following the Kargil conflict and increased terrorist activities in India a decade ago.

It is the dangerous content that the Intelligence Bureau has opposed. Unverified reports on the desecration of the holy Quran telecast on Iran TV, an illegally downloaded channel, had sparked violent protests in Jammu and Kashmir. The channel is banned in the Valley.

The anti Islam film, ‘Innocence of Muslims’, triggered riots and protests in Mumbai and other parts of the country. The government is wary that incendiary films or visuals can disturb the peace.

Sources said the anti-India propaganda to misguide viewers in India is very carefully managed.

Foreign channels provide free space for people who are well-known India baiters. Even the news telecast is sometimes loaded against India and aimed at whipping up communal passions. The Indian security agencies and the army are shown in poor light and blamed for human rights abuses.

‘Coloured’ content in the border areas, despite the access to Indian channels, there is a demand for TV programmes from across the border. This makes it easier to slip in content that is “coloured” and likely to stir up passions.

Officials said the problem of anti-India channels pertains mainly to cable operators and not other platforms like DTH. There are over 60,000 registered cable operators in the country and it is not easy to monitor them, said officials.

Digitisation could be a solution as it will be easy to track what is being shown by a cable operator. But this will take some time. Officials said digitisation will not be completed before 2014. In other words people in the border areas, where the problem of illegal channels is acute, could continue to watch these channels for at least two years even though the digitisation rollout goes according to present plans.

The issue of illegal channels has been plaguing the government for long but it has not been able to find an effective answer to deal with the issue. Sources said on the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office, a committee of secretaries analysed the issue in 2010.

A technical group comprising National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), CERT-in and the Intelligence Bureau had explored various technical options to address the issue of showing illegal contents by the cable networks.

They were of the view that localised blocking of a specified TV channel using a terrestrial transmitter is neither feasible nor a financially viable option. Secondly, although it is technically possible to block a particular channel on a pan India basis by disturbing, or jamming the downlink frequency of a particular TV channel, “such actions are not internationally acceptable,” sources said.

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