New Delhi, Aug. 14: The STAR Television group head in India, Peter Mukerjea, has alleged that the government was trying to exercise proxy editorial control over media outfits. This was being done by making the appointment of a news channel head subject to the approval of the information and broadcasting ministry.
For the first time since the government sent STAR volleys of questions over its shell company, Media Content and Communication Services (MCCS), Mukerjea has made clear his resentment of the manner in which the government has been carrying out its inquisition after STAR believed it had submitted its application for a long-term uplink licence in accordance with guidelines.
“Issues about editorial control have been raised. In my view, the ultimate right of veto lies with the ministry. So, to say that STAR has the right over editorial control (in MCCS) is not correct. The appointment of the head of the channel can be made only after a green signal from the government,” Mukerjea said here today.
Asked if he resented the government guidelines on editorial control in television companies with foreign investment, Mukerjea shot back: “Would you like it if the government has to approve the appointment of the editor of your newspaper' So you judge whether I resent it or not. MCCS has complied with the law. We will abide by the laws of the country.”
The government believes that the existing guidelines on foreign direct investment in television news companies stipulate that editorial control should be in the hands of Indians and the entity holding the uplink licence should have the right to decide on content. The ministry has questioned STAR’s right to appoint and post editorial personnel in MCCS despite being a minority shareholder in the company.
Mukerjea said he had not got any word from the government on vesting the majority shareholding in STAR with an Indian entity. “In MCCS, an Indian (Suhel Seth) has the largest stake.” Asked if STAR was in discussions with an Indian newspaper company on an equity deal, he said: “We are in talks with a number of parties.”