Congress leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal on Monday alleged that the central government was pressuring cable and direct-to-home networks to stop the airing of Harvest TV, also known as HTN News, a channel financed by him. During a discussion at the Jaipur Literary Festival, Sibal accused the government of pressuring direct-to-home satellite television company, Tata Sky to stop the channel from airing, The Indian Express reported.
“I am trying to finance a channel, to set up a channel called Harvest,” he said. “Now we have been trying to get a licence, this government does not want to give us a licence. We got a licence ultimately. Then this afternoon, suddenly it was shut down. They called up Tata Sky and said don’t put this channel on air.”
Sibal said Harvest TV has been trying to persuade Tata Sky to air the channel. “This is all happening...I am talking about how dissent is stifled, how people are not allowed to speak, how people are not allowed freedom of speech as you know it is a fundamental right.”
Sibal on Tuesday told Scroll.in that Tata Sky had said they had “no capacity” in the number of frequencies to broadcast the channel, even though HTV News had signed a contract and paid fees. “We gave Tata Sky a launch date of January 26,” he said. “We have a license. We signed a contract with them and paid whatever necessary fees that were needed. But the channel never went on air. The excuse they gave us is that they have no capacity. We have all the correspondence of this with us. The channel is running on Airtel [DTH platform].”
In an statement, a Tata Sky representative told Scroll.in, “We unfortunately do not have anything to say on this topic as the matter is under discussion at the management level.” Scroll.in has also sent queries to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry regarding Sibal’s allegations. The story will be updated if and when the ministry responds.
The channel was also allegedly blacked out on Airtel’s direct-to-home service on Monday for an hour, The Print reported. Veecon Media and Broadcasting, the company that runs the channel, claimed that the channel had also been blacklisted by Den Networks, another cable distribution company. The company also alleged that this was happening at the behest of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Sibal said the company would take legal action against Tata Sky if they did not air the channel. According to The Print, unidentified officials from the broadcasting ministry claimed that the news channel did not have permission to use its logo and that the ministry would send the channel and the broadcasting company a showcause notice regarding this.
However, Deepak Choudhary of Veecon TV, told the Print that a “third party” had registered the same logo and asked Harvest TV to not use it. He also claimed that the channel had requested the broadcasting ministry to change its name from Harvest TV to Tiranga TV but the ministry had not approved of the request. “This is why we are still using the old logo. We have now initiated a legal process,” Choudhary added.