The Future of Indian Television

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The growth and expansion of channels has put pressure on the Indian television industry to produce content. With Indian audiences preferring locally produced programs over foreign programs, the new television services are spending heavily on the development of indigenous programs. As one of the largest producers of motion pictures, India is poised to become a sizable producer of television programs as well.

The government's monopoly over television over the years has resulted in Doordarshan being tightly controlled by successive governments with ruling political parties having used Doordarshan to further their political agendas. There have been periodic attempts to reconstitute Doordarshan into a BBC-like public corporation, but governments have been reluctant to relinquish their hold on such a powerful medium.

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The government drew its right to operate the country's broadcasting services as a monopoly from the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 but the government's monopoly was challenged in the Indian Supreme Court in 1995. The Court held that the government monopoly over broadcasting was unconstitutional and while the government has the right to regulate broadcasting in the public interest, the Constitution forbids monopoly control over any medium by either individuals or the government.

The Court directed the government to establish an independent public authority for "controlling and regulating" the use of airwaves. The Court's decision holds out the promise of significant structural changes in Indian broadcasting and the possibility that terrestrial television may finally free itself from governmental control.

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