New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation Thursday on abrogation of Article 370 and proposal to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories had sparked off debates on whether Kashmiris were actually able to hear him since the state was reeling under a communication blackout.
Local residents, however, say that PM Modi was heard across the state since television (DTH) and radio were working even as cable TV, internet connections and phone lines were shut down.
There were specific instructions issued by the government to ensure Modi’s speech was heard in the state, ThePrint has learnt — including a near-immediate broadcast of the PM’s address in Kashmiri, Dogri and Ladakhi on Radio Kashmir and All India Radio networks across Srinagar, Jammu and Leh areas.
A senior government official told ThePrint that while Jammu and Kashmir sees frequent internet shutdowns, DTH television and radio signals can only be suspended under extraordinary circumstances, such as an ongoing war.
DTH, FM Signals not suspended
Currently, there is no technology for ‘region-specific’ shut down of DTH television signals.
“Technically, DTH television signals can be shut down. But then the blackout will take place across the country since signals are transmitted via a satellite. No country wants to do it since that sends out panic signals to the world,” a source in the government said, while adding that channels should exercise self-regulation at such times.
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For radio, similarly, a particular region can be suspended from hearing a national broadcast. “But local radio stations are never shut unless they are taken over by inimical elements or any extraordinary situation such as a coup takes place,” the source added.
The source also said that the government can block radio signals from other international radio channels. But it is easier to do so when those signals are medium wave or FM.
“Short-wave signals are difficult to block, though not completely impossible,” the source added.
For private FM channels, too, the government can ask operators to shut down in a particular state or area.
An FM industry insider, however, said that such a situation has never taken place — partly because private FM channels are not allowed to broadcast their own news about the government and hence they stick to broadcasting only entertainment programmes.
“The transmitters of private FM radio channels are usually in Prasar Bharati’s towers. The government can decide to switch it off anytime. But that hasn’t been done so far,” the source further said.
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