The I&B ministry has slapped show cause notices on 38 broadcasters for not intimating it of the changes in their shareholding pattern or on the board of directors as mandated.
Of the 38 broadcasting companies to whom the notices have been sent, 32 had made changes in their share holding pattern without prior intimation to the ministry while 6 had not informed of the changes made on the board of directors.
Officials said that for over an year, the ministry has been engaged in a comprehensive exercise of verifying the ownership and directorship details of all the broadcasting companies that held licenses for running channels.
As a result of this drive, the permissions for at least 61 channels, which did not fulfil the licensing conditions, have been cancelled by the ministry or have been surrendered by the companies themselves, officials said.
"The number of channels in the broadcasting space had at one time touched 877 but since several companies could not withstand the scrutiny of the ministry, 61 licenses were cancelled. The number of channels presently functioning is 806 of which 408 are non news and 398 fall in the news and current affairs category," a senior official said.
Many of the channels whose permission has been cancelled were regional channels or new entrants who did not carve much space in the broadcasting sector.
"The whole idea behind this exercise was to make sure that everybody is in compliance with the licencing conditions. We are now in complete know of the situation," I&B secretary UK Varma said.
Officials said that after the ministry decided to examine the ownership and directorship details of the companies active in the broadcasting sector, the first step it took was to write to all the 368 companies which owned all the 877 channels.
Officials said that it was found that the channels run byeight of these companies were not functional so the permissions were cancelled or in some cases the licenses were surrendered.
285 companies responded while the reamining 75 were sent reminders to share details of their shareholding pattern and changes made on the board of directors.
As the ministry went about examining the details of each broadcasting company, it was found that several channels which were not functional even after an year of being granted permission.
The permissions of these channels were either cancelled or surrendered. Among the companies which wrote back to the ministry, 25 declared changes in the shareholding pattern and 9 about changes in the board of directors.
Officials said that the ministry was awaiting replies by the 38 companies which had not made these changes before informing the ministry as per norms and said that stringent action could be taken against them.