Trai for no cap on total number of TV channels in India

NEW DELHI: Releasing the possible freeze of new channel launches in India, the broadcast sector regulator has said that there should not be any cap on the number of channels beaming into the country.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India‘s (Trai) stance removes the uncertainty hanging over permissions to new channel launches on grounds of overcrowding and spectrum availability.

In January, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had suspended receipts of new applications for permission to uplink and downlink in India until Trai submitted its report on spectrum availability. The government had commenced processing of applications in April but was awaiting Trai‘s views before going overboard on clearances.

Trai said Thursday there should not be any cap on total number of satellite based TV channels meant for downlinking and uplinking from India, but the eligibility criteria for registration of a TV channel should be revised to include experience in media sector.

It also said the period of permission for uplinking/downlinking permission should be made uniform for 10 years. The permission fee should be revised and charged annually.

In its recommendations on issues relating to uplinking-downlinking of TV channels in India released late this evening, Trai said transfer of permission should not be permitted.

The networth requirements should be revised for news and non-news TV channels and teleports; and India should be developed as a teleport hub, it further said.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry had requested Trai on 8 October 2009 to furnish its recommendations on review of policy on uplinking and downlinking of TV channels in India in view of the growing number of channels and in view of the fact that the Ministry has given permission to around 550 TV channels and a number of applications are pending consideration.

The Ministry had asked Trai to re-visit the conditions of the present policy including the eligibility criteria and other terms and conditions of permission.

However, following the delay in the Trai report, the Ministry had commenced processing of applications but laid down certain strict criteria.

Guidelines for uplinking and down linking of channels were issued by the Ministry in 2005.

The authority after pre-consultations with the stakeholders issued a consultation paper in March 2010. These recommendations have been formulated taking into account the comments of the stakeholders and the subsequent discussions with them.

The authority also recommends that since the technology is continuously evolving, mandating a particular digital technology is not desirable.

It recommends that total Networth requirement should be Rs 250 million for first channel. This should be enhanced by Rs 100 million for each additional channel for uplinking of non-news and current affairs channel and downlinking of channels.

But the total Networth requirement should be Rs 1 billion for first channel, and enhanced by Rs 250 million for each additional channel for uplinking of news and current affairs channel.

The authority says that Networth requirement for operating a Teleport should be Rs 50 million. The networth requirement should be Rs 50 million for Kids/Scientific/Educational channels.

The authority also recommends that for recognised universities who may come up with educational channels, there should not be any networth requirement.

The authority recommends that in the applicant company, one of the persons occupying a top management position should have had 10 years of prior experience in top management positions in reputed media company for news and current affairs channels.

In so far as other channels are concerned, the authority recommends five years of prior experience in the top management position.

The Authority recommends that the applications seeking permission for uplinking/downlinking of TV channels should be processed quickly and the decision on the application should be finalised within three months from the date of submission of fully compliant and eligible application. For this purpose, the I&B Ministry should explore the feasibility of setting up a single-window clearance mechanism.

The Authority recommends that the permission fee should be as follows:

Operation Permission Fee:

Teleport Rs 200,000 (per teleport/annum)

Uplinking of TV channels Rs 200,000 (per channel/annum)

Downlinking of TV channels (uplinked from India) Rs 500,000 (per channel/annum)

Downlinking of TV channels (uplinked from abroad) Rs 1.5 million (per channel/annum). 
No minimum commitment period should be prescribed as part of the eligibility criteria and the revocation of permission should be resorted to only for non compliance of terms and conditions of the uplinking/downlinking guidelines by the permission holder.

The authority recommends that the renewal of permission shall not be denied to the compliant companies. Permission may be renewed for 10 years at a time, at Government’s discretion, on terms and conditions to be mutually agreed upon between the Government and the permission holder.

The content for the channels which are brought to India to be uplinked from here and not being viewed in India should not be counted as "import" because it is not being used in India and should not attract any duty.

The channels being uplinked from India but not downlinked in India should not attract the programme code and the advertisement code of India. Responsibility of content should be left to the broadcasters who have to take care of the rules and regulations of the target country for which content is being produced and uplinked.

However, the uplinked content should not contain anything which is against the sovereignty, integrity and national security of India as well as its friendly countries. For the monitoring purpose, these channels should be required to preserve the recordings of the proceedings for at least six months.

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