The decision to wear black bands were as a “mark of protest against the illegal black out of TV9 in Telangana

news Tuesday, April 07, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | September 05, 2014 | 07.15 PM IST

Over the last few days, journalists belonging to popular Telugu news channel TV9 in Telangana have put up pictures of themselves on social media sporting black bands covering their faces. So what are TV 9 employees protesting about?

The pictures put up on Facebook and Whatsapp are a reaction to the blackout of two channels (TV9 Telugu and ABN news) that began two and a half months ago because of “derogatory” content showcased by them against the ruling Telangana government. Dinesh Akula, executive editor of TV9, said that the decision to wear black bands were as a “mark of protest against the illegal black out of TV9 in Telangana”.

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In June, TV9 had aired a satirical programme that TRS said denigrated Telangana’s MLAs , MPs and MLCs. The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) government had then termed the show “derogatory, highly objectionable and in bad taste”. On the other hand, the other TV channel, ABN Andhrajyothi TV had allegedly brought out a news report in its newspaper showing the ruling TRS government in “bad light.” The TRS’ ire against the two channels also got some public support as many felt the channels had crossed a line.

For many days, both channels apologized profusely to the politicians, but to no avail.

That time, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao himself brought up the issue in the state Assembly saying that the TV9 programme had insulted the Assembly by saying that ““those eligible to see movies through moving talkies in rural areas were made to sit in multiplex cinema in city”, which hinted that Telangana had lost many of its best leaders to Seemandhra during the split. He also said that ABN was trying to create a “negative image” of the government with “malicious intention”.

However, these were not the only points of contention. Both channels have been perceived as anti-Telangana. After CM K.C Rao’s statements in the Assembly, most Telangana Cable TV operators cut off transmission of the two channels indefinitely in the state. This was over two and a half months ago.

The Associated Broadcasting Company Private Ltd (ABC), which promotes TV9 reached out to MSOs who had initiated the ban on the channel since it was quite long since the clampdown. Despite the unconditional apology tendered by them, the blackout was not lifted. ABC then petitioned the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) for a solution towards lifting the ban on the channel.

In an order dated on September 2nd, 2014, the TDSAT directed the responsible Multi-System Operators (MSOs) to resume transmission of TV9 news channel without delay. It said that “as long as the contents of the petitioner’s (ABC) broadcast do not violate any law, the channels cannot be taken off- air on threat of violence”.

The order then said “the essence of right to speech and expression lies in exercise of the right against the dominant public mood and sentiment”.

Earlier, Mr. Tejveer Singh Bhatia, the lawyer representing the MSOs involved in the blackout had declared that the shutdown was carried out only because broadcast of the alleged “derogatory” programme “had given rise to law and order problems” resulting in “threats of violence from some unruly crowds”.

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The order however said that it was the prerogative of the State and its authorities to act against the ones responsible for the law and order problem instead of taking the channels off air. “ As long as the contents of the petitioner’s broadcast do not violate any law, the channels cannot be taken off- air on threat of violence. In such a case, it is those who indulge in violence would be breaking the law and the State and its authorities must act against the offenders and not against the broadcaster,” said the order.

It also directed the Telangana state Home Secretary and the Superintendent of Police, Hyderabad to give protection to the MSOs and ensure no violence occurs once they reinitiate broadcasts.

The petition was disposed off as the TDSAT had directed the MSOs to restart transmission of the channel. Over this continued shutdown, Dinesh Akula said, "We strongly believe that the state government will take a note of it and intervene to check the media black out which is not all good for the new state."

It has been three days since the order was issued to the state and the MSOs, However, the channels still remain under shutdown.

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