Television

Terrestrial TV: Trai sets terms for private players

NEW DELHI: Broadcast regulator Trai today paved the way for private players entry into terrestrial broadcasting by suggesting to the government it would stoke competition and choice for consumers.

 
 
 
In its recommendations on 'Private Terrestrial Television Broadcast', the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today said that "apart from commercial service, such a policy decision could also pave the way for community television."

In respect of commercial television broadcasting, it has been recommended that for the present this should be permitted in both analogue and digital modes since at present there is sufficient spectrum to support a few players even in the analogue mode. Details of frequency allocation for analogue and digital service could be finalised at a later date once the major decisions are taken. Allocation of spectrum would also have to take note of the requirements of wireless based telecommunication services.

No detailed eligibility conditions have been proposed except that the same disqualifications should apply as has been decided recently for private FM radio. Similarly, the licensing structure should also follow the parallel of FM radio.

 
 
 

However, Trai has suggested against permitting any pilot projects on MMDS or other technologies before laying down a comprehensive policy and regulatory framework.

Dwelling on a licensing regime, Trai has said licences could be given on the basis of cities after an in principle announcement is made. If in case there is interest shown in particular regions, then those regions should also be allowed to be put on bid.

In the case of FM radio, no networking was permitted. However, the case of television is different where there are already a large number of private channels having national coverage and viewership. Therefore, networking for television should be permitted to allow for competition with established national cable and satellite networks.

In view of the large number of private TV channels having national coverage, networking has been recommended. In respect of foreign investment it has been proposed that there should be a comprehensive review to bring about a greater consistency in the rules of various segments of media sector, Trai has conveyed to the government.

During the consultation process, it was noted that the telecom sector is also interested in the rea of terrestrial broadcasting and, accordingly, this review would need to take note of the likely convergence in future between

telecommunications and broadcasting.

A consultation paper on this subject had been circulated in February, 2005.

Some of the major reasons for making these recommendations are:

• The Supreme Court judgment of 1995 on airwaves that no medium should be controlled by a monopoly either of the state or of any individual, group or organisation.

• The private sector would complement the public sector and provide more resources for the development of this alternative.

• This would give an additional choice to the consumers to view channels in a free-to-air mode.

• The recommendations recognise that community television could also be permitted and detailed recommendations on this would be sent once government takes an in principle decision to allow the private sector for terrestrial

broadcasting and also after the government policy on community television is finalised.

In respect of commercial television broadcasting, it has been recommended that for the present this should be permitted in both analogue and digital modes since at present there is sufficient spectrum to support a few players

even in the analogue mode.

The general disqualifications for a policy relating to private participation in terrestrial broadcasting, according to Trai, could be the following:

• Companies not incorporated in India.

• Any company controlled by a person convicted of an offence involving turpitude or declared as insolvent or applied for being declared insolvent.

• Subsidiary company of any applicant in the same centre.

• Companies with the same management within a centre.

• More than one inter-connected undertaking at the same centre.

• Religious bodies

• Political bodies

• Advertising agencies

Details of frequency allocation for analogue and digital service could be finalised at a later date once the major decisions are taken, Trai has said.

Allocation of spectrum would also have to take note of the requirements of wireless based telecommunication services.

However, these set of recommendations need not necessarily mean that pubcaster Doordarshan's monopoly over terrestrial broadcast is immediately under threat.

Before any action happens on this front, the government would have to take a view on Trai's reccomendation and then, probably, seek Parliament's okay too on the subject of allowing private players in terrestrial broadcasting,

which may be time consuming.

The full text of the recommendations is available on Trai's web site, www.trai.gov.in.

• Trusts, Societies, non-profit oganisations controlled/associated companies.

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