Trai against allowing govt or govt entities in broadcasting and distribution

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has stuck to its November 2008 recommendation that central and state governments or entities owned by them should not be allowed to be in broadcasting and television channel distribution businesses.

Trai on Friday submitted its recommendations to the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry on "Issues related to entry of government or government entities into the business of broadcasting and/or distribution of TV channels".

The I&B Ministry had made a reference to the regulator in November to give its views on allowing central government ministries, central/state government departments, central/state government owned companies, central/state government undertakings, joint venture of the central/state governments and the private sector and central/state government funded entities may in the business of broadcasting and/or distribution of TV channels.

Trai has also reiterated its view that the government should provide an appropriate exit route to government or government-owned companies which have already been accorded permission to carry on the business of television channel distribution.

The immediate impact of the Trai recommendation is on Arasu Cable TV Corporation, the Tamil Nadu government-owned company engaged in cable TV distribution business.

Trai has recommended that suitable provisions be incorporated in the proposed new legislation on broadcasting to provide for an appropriate exit route for such entities which have been already granted permission by the government but are likely to be hit by the proposed disqualifications.

Trai has also said that the government should further strengthen the arm‘s length relationship between the public broadcaster Prasar Bharti and the central government. Trai said measures should ensure functional independence and autonomy of Prasar Bharti.

Pending enactment of any new legislation on broadcasting, the disqualifications recommended for political bodies to enter into broadcasting and/or distribution activities should be implemented through executive decision by incorporating the disqualifications into Rules, Regulations and Guidelines as necessary, Trai further said in its recommendations.

These recommendations are in continuation of the earlier recommendations that it had made in November 2008 following an exhaustive consultation process after the I&B Ministry in December 2007 sought Trai‘s recommendations whether state governments and political bodies should be permitted to enter into broadcasting and distribution activities.

In the consultation process, Trai had comprehensively examined the issue in the broader context of both central as well as state governments and their respective organs.

Trai based its recommendations on the Sarkaria Commission report which said a political party controls the executive and there could be "a temptation to use the media wrongly in party interest and not necessarily in national interest".

While the observations in Sarkaria Commission report were made in the context of the Union Executive, the same logic, Trai says, applies to a state government as the spirit of the observation pertains to the exercise of power and control wielded by the government in question.

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