Television

GoM shelves Convergence Bill plan

NEW DELHI: India today dumped onto the backburner its attempt to have an over-arching law for the convergence era (telecom, broadcasting and infotech) with a high-powered group of ministers (GoM) today deciding against pursuing the Convergence Communications Bill (CCB) as broadcasting issues cannot be covered entirely under it.

The GoM on telecom also recommended that the 49 per cent cap on foreign direct investment (FDI) and foreign institutional investors (FII) be hiked to 74 per cent in the telecom sector, but the management control should remain with the Indian operator. However, the panel did not deliberate whether a similar foreign investment cap in cable ventures should also be raised.

The GoM is of the view that since content and other broadcasting relating issues is being unable to be brought under the CCB, the law "is not being pursued" at the moment, communications minister Arun Shourie told reporters after the first week of GoM, which is headed by finance minister Jaswant Singh. 

According to Shourie, the GoM felt that the fast developments in the broadcast sector needs a separate regulatory body and cannot wait for the CCB to be enacted into a law after looking into the amendments suggested by a parliamentary panel. 

With this move, the proposal to have a separate regulatory body for broadcast sector gets a major fillip.

Though information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tried to play down this victory of sorts, sources in the ministry indicated that now work on a broadcast regulatory authority would be speeded up.

In principle, Prasad has been in favour of a separate broadcasting regulatory authority or a commission to oversee issues related to the sector like CAS, surrogate advertising, direct-to-home(DTH) television service and content on TV channels that did not adhere to the programming code of India. 

Ministry sources said that the proposed broadcast authority would be more or less in line with a similar framework that had been outlined in the Broadcast Bill, 1997 introduced in Parliament by the then United Front government. The Bill could not be pursued as the government was voted out of power at the Center

Contacted by indiantelevision.com, a senior executive of a foreign-owned media company said that a separate broadcast regulatory framework is a positive step. 

Meanwhile, the FDI cap will stay at 49 per cent for the telecom sector, while FIIs would be allowed to go for another 25 per cent stake, taking the total foreign investment limit to 74 per cent, Shourie explained. 

The GoM has also finalised its recommendations on six of the eight issues referred to it, and the remaining two issues would be taken up at the next meeting on October four, he said.

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