Regulators

Fresh attempt underway to study convergence of communications & broadcasting

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NEW DELHI: More than a decade after the then Union government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, failed to agree on a Convergence Commission of India, a new attempt is being finalized to establish a single regulatory framework for communications, IT and broadcasting sectors.

The Department of Telecom is likely to make a presentation on the proposed Communications Convergence Bill to the Prime Minister's Office on 15 February.

A Group of Ministers headed by then Finance Minister Yashwant Singh had held several meetings on the possibility of a Convergence Commission of India but failed to reach consensus. Members included Arun Jaitley (then Law Minister), the late Pramod Mahajan (then Telecom and IT Minister) and Sushma Swaraj (then Information and Broadcasting Minister). A draft had in fact been prepared in 2000 but it was then learnt to have been shelved because of differences between the then Telecom and I&B Ministers.

According to Department of Telecom sources, the presentation being prepared by it will be made before Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra on 15 February and those expected to be present will include Telecom Secretary Rakesh Garg, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman Rahul Khullar, and I&B secretary Bimal Julka.

The new Bill proposes a super regulator - Communications Commission - with defined powers, procedures and functions for regulatory and licensing functions, and an Appellate Tribunal.

The aim is to replace all old and redundant legislations, which include the Telegraph Act of 1885, as well as Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933, Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, and IT Act 2000.

The super regulator is proposed to be a six-member body with a chairman who will have a five-year tenure. Members will include one each from sectors like telecom, broadcasting, finance, management, accountancy and either law or consumer affairs.

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