Zakir Naik’s Peace TV row: Govt clueless about unauthorised channels

  • Smriti Kak Ramachandran, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 13, 2016 17:46 IST
A man watches news on TV at an electronics showroom in Chennai. The information and broadcasting ministry has no data on how many banned channels are being downloaded and aired illegally in the country. (PTI File Photo)

Televangelist Zakir Naik’s Peace TV looks set to give the government more worries. The information and broadcasting ministry has no data on how many banned channels are being downloaded and aired illegally in the country.

The illegal telecast of Dubai-based Peace TV in India has shifted the spotlight on the need for developing a monitoring mechanism for tracking the unlawful broadcast of channels and programmes that are not cleared for transmission.

According to sources in the government, the I&B ministry is mulling how to monitor the relay of content that can “pose a threat to the nation’s security and secular structure”. On the radar will be channels and programmes with religious content, discourses and news. Inputs will be sought from the internal security establishment.

“There is no way to monitor suspicious channels; at present we only track permitted news and general entertainment channels through the EEMC (Electronic Media Monitoring Centre),” an official said. “But the government has been alerted to the need for checking content that can have an adverse impact on security and national integrity.”

At present, the government is relying on complaints by states, individuals and cable TV operators to bring to attention illegal broadcast of channels. For monitoring illegal broadcast through the internet, it will have to rope in the ministry of communication and information technology.

Monitoring of over 600 permitted channels is carried out at the EEMC. The purpose is to monitor content and to check them for violation of programme and advertisement code besides the provisions of cable television networks regulation Act, 1995.

Additionally, the I&B ministry also monitors social media platforms. This is done through its social media monitoring unit which supplies daily reports to the Prime Minister’s Office, the national security advisor’s office, and the home ministry among few others on what is trending on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

In the wake of students’ unrest at the Hyderabad University and Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, the ministry had pitched for enhancing funds and manpower for the division to collate sensitive information for the government and set up an early warning system on sensitive matters.

“Monitoring of channels was earlier being carried out at the central monitoring station,” another official explained. “It was very effective in tapping information relevant for the country’s security among other issues.”

However, it was later merged with the National Technological Research Organisation’s Centre for Focussed Open Source Intelligence Generation. “That was later disbanded, leaving a lacuna in monitoring sensitive information,” he explained.

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