‘Security clearance’ to ‘Kolkata TV’ denied, channel complains of political vendetta
BJP-TMC slugfest took a new turn on Tuesday with TV channel said to be sympathetic to TMC, accusing Centre of targeting it for political reasons. Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien tweeted in support
Kolkata TV, a Bengali news and current affairs channel, has been informed by the I&B ministry that it had been denied security clearance by the MHA. The channel has been asked to show cause within seven days why its license should not therefore be cancelled.
M/S R.P. Techvision (I) Pvt Ltd., which owns the channel, expressed surprise and claimed that it remains in the dark about the denial of security clearance or the grounds for such denial. The company claimed this is the first time it had received a threat to cancel its license.
To add to the mystery, the company claims to have been running the TV channel without any interruption since 2016. At no time thereafter was the channel informed of any security concern, it claimed. The company also claimed that it had been regular and up-to-date in payment of all annual fees for uplinking and downlinking signals. On condition of anonymity, a company executive alleged that the notice appeared to be politically motivated.
While the license is granted by the I & B Ministry, security clearance is given by the Home Ministry. BJP MP from West Bengal, Nisith Pramanik, was inducted as MOS (Home) earlier this year.
The notice, signed by an Under Secretary in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and dated September 27, on Tuesday led to a political storm with Derek O’Brien, AITC leader and MP tweeting, “When TV channels, newspapers and committed journalists expose and don’t suck up to Modi’s BJP, here is what they get. Stay strong, all media”.
O’Brien was responding to the tweet by Kolkata TV Editor Kaustuv Roy, in which he claimed, “First they send ED. Failed. Now they are trying to cancel the license of Kolkata TV. This is a blunt way to gag the voice of free press. We will continue to raise our voice. We’ll protest against this blatant, undemocratic practice of present government. We will not succumb to any such pressure…”.
Sources in Kolkata media circles maintained that the TV channel had aggressively promoted Mamata Banerjee ahead of the West Bengal election earlier this year. While BJP significantly improved its tally in the Assembly, AITC had emerged victorious by grabbing 213 seats in the 294-member House. They believe the notice is a fallout of the BJP-TMC slugfest ahead of the crucial byelection in Bhabanipur assembly constituency from which chief minister Mamata Banerjee is seeking to be elected. The polling is scheduled for Thursday. September 30.
The I & B ministry’s notice states that the original license was granted in 2006 to M/S SST Media Pvt. Ltd. for a period of 10 years. However, following a Kolkata High Court order in 2014, the ownership of the channel vested in M/S R.P. Techvision(I) Pvt Ltd.
It is not clear if the 10-year license, which lapsed in 2016, was subsequently transferred to the new company. Attempts to contact the TV channel for more details did not succeed. This report will be updated as and when we get more information from Kolkata.