Yesterday evening, Telugu news channels were taken off air for about 10 minutes in and around Hyderabad as pro-Telangana supporters participating in the Telangana March clashed violently with the police. The blackout seemed to affect only local cable operators and not DTH services.

Other parts of Andhra Pradesh did not experience the blackout when regional news channels were airing deferred live coverage of the meeting being addressed at Hussain Sagar Lake. The news channels were beaming aerial shots of the meeting scheduled to be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Transmission was blocked by the police after participants of the Telangana March started moving towards Necklace Road, where they met with clashes with the police.  

Newspaper offices were reportedly inundated with phone calls from anxious people. Understandably, with no way to decipher what was happening beyond a few blocks, the tension in the state escalated further.

In such times, citizens tend to rely on the web and social media. Quite a few took to social networking sites such as Twitter to vent their annoyance. One user tweeted, “Violence mars 'Telangana March', news channels blocked …Wht happnd freedom of press?”, while another wrote, “Big game behind TV news channels #blackout in #Hyderabad. Transmission resumed but not live. It's raining but footage is that of evening”.

News channels face block (Image credit: Getty Images)

News channels face block (Image credit: Getty Images)

The apparent aim behind the transmission block was to check the violence from spreading.   

Recently, the government issued a ban on bulk SMSes and MMSes in the country, when it was found that scores of text and multimedia messages were finding their way to the fear-stricken minds of those from the northeast, causing them to panic and flee from various parts of the country. By implementing such a ban the government aimed to nip the rumours in the bud. The Home Ministry asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to implement the order through telecom operators in the country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that rumours spread by miscreants in this way had resulted in those of northeastern origin fleeing their homes. 

While the move was being projected as a quick fix for a situation spiralling out of hand, citizens across the country felt the pinch, for SMS is a very popular mode of communication in the country. Clearly, there were many who were not happy with the blockade. One consumer wrote, “who will pay for those who have subscribed daily sms pack under special scheme like 95 rs for daily 100 sms? Will government pay me back or network provider?,” while another one added, “A kind request to Govt. Plz withdraw this rule as soon as possible even today itself. SMS matters a lot for me.Call is not possible so SMS has become a source of life for me”.

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