Govt assures ease in licensing norms to TV channels, satellite operators

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Communications (MoC) yesterday, while allaying concerns of the broadcast and satcom industries, assured that the government would further ease norms for doing business in India and that processes were underway for implementation soon to do away with multiple permissions for communications frequencies.

While communications minister Manoj Sinha said that it was “time to take a fresh approach” to satcom policies, in conjunction with the department of space, the senior most official, secretary Aruna Sundararajan, stressed that soon the government would unveil a single window for frequency-related permissions.

Speaking at an event organised by Broadband India Forum, called Satcom 2017 and themed ‘Accelerating Satellite Broadband for Inclusive Growth’, Sinha said that the role of satellites in “making available affordable broadband” had been witnessed in various parts of the world. He added it was time that the department of space takes a “fresh approach” to making use of technologies like satellites and cable-delivered broadband --- which complement India’s multi-million rupees' fibre optics network project or Bharat Net--- to realse the dream of a digital India championed by PM Modi.

Pointing out that India was on the threshold of becoming the “largest broadband economy in the world”, Sinha said, “Satellite communications has a special role to play.”

Speaking earlier, Suderarajan echoed minister Sinha’s vision in making India truly digital and said that MoC was working with Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and other related government organisations to create software, akin to a single-window, for various frequency-related approvals and permissions.

“There are anomalies in frequency allocations (for TV channels and satellite ops),” MoC secretary said, adding that the ministry is in dialogue with other government agencies to remove such irritants so that the “extra burden of cost (on part of the industry players) could be done away with”.

Both minister Sinha and Sunderarajan promised to take up with the the department of space, various concerns raised by TV channels and satellite operators, mostly foreign, relating to lengthy clearance processes, which were in sharp contrast to the PM Modi-led government’s claim of continuously easing norms for doing business.  

“I understand that broadcasting has a problem as many agencies are involved. I can tell those present here that we are working with MIB to create a single software for approvals and permissions,” joint wireless advisor RB Prasad reiterated at another conference session, clarifying that an issue about ownership and management of the said portal is being presently discussed to close the matter.

While stressing that proliferation of affordable broadband will empower Indians in general, which was the government’s target, the top MoC official informed that by the end of the year 100,000 gram panchayats or local village administrations will be broadband-enabled under the Bharat Net project. For the remaining of the targeted 650,000 villages, Sunderarajan said, “Satellite component will be important.”

Meanwhile, TRAI chairman RS Sharma, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Satcom 2107 conference, said that while the open sky policy mandated that the service provider or anyone that wants to provide broadband will be able to contact satellite operators, there were still some “deficiencies” in the system. “That, we will need to work out,” he was quoted by PTI as saying. He, however, ruled out a separate consultation paper on the same. The new telecom policy, scheduled to be unveiled in the first quarter of 2018, will exemplify all those issues, Sharma noted.

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