Channel claims was blacked out of Airtel DTH for an hour Monday and alleges Tata Sky not providing slot. I&B ministry says channel seeking publicity.
New Delhi: Just two days into its launch — it went on air on 26 January — Harvest TV (now known as HTN News), backed by Congress leader Kapil Sibal, has alleged that it is facing trouble with DTH operators and cable operators, allegedly at the behest of the Narendra Modi government.
Those associated with Veecon Media & Broadcasting, which runs the news channel, have alleged that the channel was not only blacked out at 2 pm for over an hour on Airtel’s DTH platform but has also been blacklisted by DEN Networks — a digital cable TV service provider.
They added that TATA Sky, another DTH platform, has allegedly refused to carry the news channel citing a lack of available frequencies. The channel is blaming the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry.
Sibal too suggested that this was being done at the behest of the government.
“We will take Tata Sky to court if they don’t honour their commitment in a day or two,” he said. “There is this talk of freedom of speech but see what is happening.”
HTN News — a revamped version of Harvest TV — is operating on an old license procured from the ministry by Veecon Media & Broadcasting in 2011. There has, however, been no change in the channel’s shareholding pattern.
An I&B ministry spokesperson sought further time to comment but a top source in the ministry denied having intervened in any way.
“The channel should first get its house in order,” said the source in the ministry. “The Harvest logo is illegal. They have no permission to use the logo and the ministry will soon issue a show-cause notice to the channel and the teleport.”
The source said that “it has become stylish to blame the government and get publicity”.
ThePrint has sought a response through email from Tata Sky but it is yet to respond. This report will be updated once they do.
Deepak Choudhry, who is associated with Veecon Media & Broadcasting, told ThePrint that the harassment directed at the channel is allegedly being done at the behest of the I&B ministry.
Choudhry said that a third party (Kerala-based Christian devotional channel Harvest TV) had registered the Harvest TV logo in their name and had asked the channel not to use it. He added that the channel had formally requested the I&B ministry to change its name from Harvest TV to Tiranga TV but the ministry, he alleged, has been sitting on it for over a year.
“This is why we are still using the old logo. We have now initiated a legal process,” he added. “Since the matter is sub-judice, we can’t comment any further.”
He said that the channel had “changed its operating frequency, from 2Mbps to 3Mbps, for better picture quality” and alleged that the I&B ministry was also using this to target Harvest TV by directing Planetcast Limited, which is the teleport operator for uplinking of the channel on different satellites, to remove HTN News.
“We found out that the I&B ministry had asked them why the channel was being telecast on a new frequency. As a result, the channel was blacked out,” Choudhry alleged. “We have now asked them (Planetcast) to run the channel at the old frequency itself. The channel is back on Airtel but will take time to come back on DEN. The government is targeting us on flimsy excuses.”
Choudhry said that they were “shocked to discover the repeated attempts by the government to stop our broadcast”.
“On Monday, without any advance notice, the satellite signal of our channel was snapped on instructions from the Ministry of Broadcasting,” he said. “Technical reasons were used as an excuse for this unprecedented intervention.”
About TATA sky, he alleged that the DTH platform is also under government pressure to not broadcast the channel. “Despite all formalities being completed and payments being made, we still have not been given a slot,” he alleged.
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