New Delhi: The National Broadcasters' Association (NBA) on Sunday expressed regret over a Cabinet decision which empowers the I&B Ministry to decline renewal of licenses of TV channels if they are found violating the terms of its "subjective" assessment.

In a statement, the NBA said it notes with regret that the Cabinet has purportedly approved certain modifications to the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines.

This includes a provision which provides that if a TV channel is found "guilty" of violating the terms and conditions of permission, including violations of Programme and Advertisement Code on five occasions or more, the Ministry may decline to renew the permission of such channels.

"Firstly, there is no such requirement under the existing Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines for renewal. Secondly, there certainly cannot be any power vested in the Ministry to cancel or 'refuse to renew' a broadcaster's license on their subjective view that a TV channel has violated the terms of the Guidelines or the provisions of the Cable TV Act," it

The body noted that in the past the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued showcause notices to broadcasters on various counts.

"However, the proceedings pursuant to such notices have been conducted internally within the Ministry and never has been in the nature of adjudication. Be that as it may, certain other broadcasters have complied with directions issued by the Ministry for running apologies and even shutting down their channels for certain periods of time," the Association said in its statement.

"To now retrospectively use such proceedings to deny permission to broadcast for future is wholly arbitrary, unfair, illegal and unconstitutional," it added.

The NBA described the proposed modification of the Uplinking and Downlinking guidelines as a "direct assault" on the self-regulatory regime put in place by broadcasters, which has been encouraged and recognised by the I&B Ministry.

"Such proposed step is wholly retrograde and places broadcasters at the arbitrary mercy of the Ministry and is therefore a violation of the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression and will not be countenanced by the NBA," it said.

Expressing anguish at this step, the NBA urged the government to "urgently review the regressive decision" which would be "anathema to the constitutional framework of our

The Association is seeking an appointment with Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni to explain and clarify its concerns.