The channels are dubbed ‘Yellow media’ by the ruling YSR Congress circles for a long time.
Hyderabad: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) chairman Justice Shiva Kirti Singh’s orders on Friday directing the master service operators (MSOs) in Andhra Pradesh to restore broadcast of two private Telugu news channels—ABN Andhra Jyoti and TV5—has become a political controversy involving the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress government.
For the last two weeks, these two TV channels have been knocking every door in the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry’s outfits as well as media professional bodies, seeking justice in the wake of an unofficial ban on their broadcast in Andhra Pradesh since 12 September. These two news channels are dubbed as “Yellow media” by the ruling YSR Congress circles for a long time.
As the MSOs have stopped or downgraded the broadcast of these two channels after an alleged meeting with Andhra Pradesh Information and Public Relations Minister Perni Nani in the second week of this month in Vijayawada, the managements of these two channels have alleged that the ruling party was behind their blackout for political reasons.
However, the minister as well as the spokesmen of the ruling party have stoutly denied it and made it clear that the government was not responsible for blacking out of these channels as it was purely within the domain of the MSOs and consumers of television. Minister Nani, in fact, termed the allegations as part of a campaign to tarnish the image of the Jagan government.
Justice Shiva Kirti Singh’s orders specifically directing the dozens of MSOs across Andhra Pradesh to restore broadcasting these two channels within 24 hours is seen as a slap on the unofficial ban and whoever are behind the move. As most of the MSOs have been using the services of the Central government-owned Fiber Net, the TDSAT’s orders are binding on them. Curiously, the orders were received on Friday at a time when an all-party meeting was held in Vijaywada denouncing the unofficial ban on these two news channels. The meeting was attended by representatives of all Opposition parties, including the TDP, BJP, Jana Sena and the Left parties. BJP national spokesman and MP G.V.L. Narasimha Rao clearly condemned the ban on news channels.
Speakers at the meeting clearly targeted the Jagan government for its attempts to suppress freedom of expression in Andhra by blacking out the media channels which are questioning polices of the government. Andhra Jyothi Telugu newspaper, which owns the ABN Andhra Jyothi channel, is running a campaign through its columns challenging the unofficial ban. These two channels are being aired on the DHT platforms, but not available to consumers who depend on local cable operators who in turn get their signals from the MSOs. Though the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has clear instructions to inform their consumers of any changes in the package of channels or their order of sequence, the MSOs mostly ignore them.
According to sources, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, too, in his order clearly expressed his annoyance over replies furnished by some MSOs—especially those from Vijayawada city and Machilipatnam in Krishna district—that they had not stopped airing of these channels, but their numbers had changed to adjust other channels. Even in its earlier remarks, the tribunal has made it clear that the number of news channels should not be disturbed to adjust news entertainment channels as viewers (consumers) would be confused. The counsels of the blacked out channels had alleged that their numbers were pushed to below the order to confuse and make them obscure to the viewers.
The channels have also moved Andhra Pradesh High Court challenging the ban in Andhra and made the I&B ministry as one of the respondents. The additional solicitor general who appeared before the court on Friday and the case is posted for 3 October. It appears there is no written instruction from the state government to the MSOs or any official order from MSOs to local cable operators on this so-called ban.