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TRAI suggestions on uplink, downlink norms under consideration, says MIB

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NEW DELHI: The Indian government has said broadcast and telecoms regulator TRAI’s recommendations on ease of doing business and uplink/downlink norms, some of them quite radical, are under consideration.

“Government solicited recommendation of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)… they are under consideration,” Minister of Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore told Parliament last week without giving any time frame or clarifying whether the regulator’s suggestions on both the issues would be accepted in totality or they would be tweaked as and when legislated into regulations.

Pointing out that because the present policy guidelines for uplinking of television channels from India and those relating to landing rights came into effect in December 2011, it was felt that the government should have them re-examined by the regulator in view of the changing broadcasting environ in the country, Rathore explained.

However, TRAI in its recommendations on uplink and downlink norms, shot down an idea proposed by MIB that had suggested whether TV channels’ frequencies too could be auctioned on the lines of FM radio stations.

TRAI also stuck with most of the existing guidelines and norms for uplink and downlink permissions for TV channel and teleports. However, it suggested enhancing of annual permission fees from the present levels, amongst some other changes. The recommendations on uplink and downlink of TV channels and teleports had been awaited eagerly by the industry, already reeling under pressures from various sides, including economic.

The regulator also said that mandating encryption of broadcast of FTA TV channels was not a good idea, while suggesting that various processes for government clearances should be streamlined and completed within a stipulated time-frame.

The broadcast industry and independent observers feel that it would help the industry if Minister Rathore’s team at MIB take a quick decision on the suggestions made by TRAI on both the issues instead of keeping the matter pending.

However, as TRAI’s role is recommendatory, it is not mandatory for government organisations, including MIB, Department of Telecoms (DoT) and Department of Space, to accept the suggestions in any form.

There have been instances when the regulator’s suggestions have been shot down or tweaked by the government. A recent example being TRAI’s push for its role to be upgraded to that of a converged regulator for broadcast, online and telecoms sectors, which was shot down by the DoT while formulating the final version of the National Digital Communications Policy 2018.

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