TRAI to submit paper on digitalisation of TV broadcasting in December

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is preparing a consultation paper on digitalisation of TV broadcasting. The regulator is expected to submit the paper to the government in December.

"Digitalisation is an expansive process. It would take some time before a final decision is made," said TRAI chairman Pradip Baijal.

Baijal said TRAI has also submitted its conclusion on doing away with Access Deficit Charges (ADC). He was speaking at a seminar on "TRAI Report on Issues Relating to Broadcasting and Distribution of TV Channels", organised by FICCI on 25 November in Mumbai.

Pradip Baijal pointed out there was total chaos all over the world regarding cable TV regulations. He stressed the need for inter-connect agreement when it comes to cable TV regulation in India.

"It is extremely difficult to regulate this sector. You can't do costing exercises all of a sudden," he said. All regulation in India should deal with inter-connect agreement.

"We will address the issues of must-carry. Digitalisation is not easy. We need to find out a mechanism for the must-carry provision," said TRAI advisor Rakesh Kacker, presenting TRAI's response at the seminar.

Speaking on the inter-connection regulation, Kacker said a total of 24 stake-holders have provided TRAI their comments on the issue. The stake-holders were requested to provide comments by 5 November, 2004, after which the regulation would be finalised, taking into account these comments.

Among others who spoke during the seminar were IBF president & Prasar Bharati chairman KS Sarma, Reliance Entertainment chairman Amit Khanna, SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta, Salora group MD Sushil Jiwarajka, IBF vice-president and Essel Group vice chairman Jawahar Goel, IBF secretary general NP Nawani, MSO alliance president & Hinduja TMT executive vice president Ashok Mansukhani and Ministry of I&B additional secretary SK Arora.

Presenting the theme, Dasgupta stressed the need for competition among cable operators and MSOs. He said the number of cable operators should be reduced. "The number of cable operators has to be reduced to a manageable number. I know no cable operator would like to hear it. But that is the reality."

Amit Khanna debated the need for a framework to regulate content. He said the broadcast service regulations should be in the interest of the consumer, keeping in mind the future deployment.

"It must have two clauses: A must-provide clause which will encourage a democratic access and then a must-carry clause. In the case of pricing, the regulator can only set a goal. Commercial negotiations should be encouraged to take this ahead," Khanna said.

KL Sharma said the issue on TV rating system should be addressed in India soon as it is "affecting the public broadcaster ."

Ashok Mansukhani called for an immediate action from the government regarding addressability. "If we had an arrangement on interconnectivity in place, it would have helped the industry. Government is taking time to do it and that worsens the scenario," he said.

SK Arora stressed on the need for more consultative processes to solve the issues. "It is a very complex situation. We should have more consultations between TRAI and the players," he offered.

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