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New Delhi, Dec 8 (IANS) Al Jazeera English and France 24, which have been given downlinking rights by the information and broadcasting ministry, are banking on a surge of interest in global events to establish their presence in India's cable and satellite market.
Al Jazeera English started broadcasting in India Tuesday after the ministry gave the final go-ahead to permit the downlinking of signals after it had formally applied for this in mid-2006.
Anmol Saxena, the channel's India bureau chief, however, denies there was delay on the part of the government in giving clearance to the Qatar-based channel and clarified that the permission norms involve 'several ministries' and is 'a long-drawn process.'
An official of the information and broadcasting ministry confirmed that the clearance had been given to both channels, but declined to go into reasons for the delay.
Al Jazeera International moved a formal application to launch its India operations along with the global launch of the channel in 2006. The application was referred to the home ministry, which cited security considerations in denying permission that year.
The ministry sought more information about more information about the origins of the channel and the individuals involved. The paperwork for granting the permission was finally given after renewed assurances by the channel over security apprehensions, informed sources said.
'We are extremely excited to cater to Indian viewership. With India's increasing engagement in world affairs and strong interest in international events, we are certain Al Jazeera will have a substantial following throughout the country,' Saxena told IANS. Al Jazeera International claims viewership in 220 million households around the world.
Soon after the clearance, Al Jazeera has already received indication from a number of providers that they will air the channel.
For France 24, the downlinking permission coincided with the visit of French President Nicholas Sarkozy, the channel's bureau chief in India Constantin Simon said.
'It is a fabulous decision for us. We have been waiting for it... There are many issues in India to report from politics to society to economy. We want to speak to the country and not only about it,' Simon told IANS.
The launch of France 24 is also seen as an important information bridge to improve cultural contacts between India and France.
'They welcome the launching of the news channel France 24 in India,' said an India-France joint statement Dec 6 after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
France 24 is available in about 120 countries in English, French and Arabic.