Waiting for Godot

Another year and the industry continues to scan the horizon for the chimera of clarity of purpose from the powers that be in the government.

The long delayed broadcasting bill remains just that - long delayed.

In January there was much debate on the government's policy on convergence and direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting. It was "being reworked" by the information and broadcasting ministry. If not in the winter session, at least the monsoon session might see its introduction in Parliament was the hope.

Still no sign of it but now is a good time as any to have a once over of what it is our parliamentarians are trying to do. The bill when (a big when that) introduced will outline a new telecom-IT convergence legislative framework to replace the Indian Telegraph Act 1885. It will also recommend whether there should be separate legislations for telecom, broadcasting, cable TV, Internet and satellite communication. The bill will also outline the broad parameters for DTH broadcasting. Ultimately, the DTH policy will reflect the recommendations of the group of ministers (GoM).

The GoM constituted by the previous government had recommended that Doordarshan be exclusively allowed DTH services for five years but its recommendations were not put on file and the move was scuttled by the election commission.

The Vajpayee government decided to examine the issue afresh on coming to power and set up the Fali S Nariman committee to study the issue. The report is ready but now redrafts have been sought.

The latest on the matter has come from Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj. She said that the bill was very much a priority with the government and it was taking efforts to get it into shape. She added that hardly one per cent of convergence had happened in India, so there was no point in saying that the regulation accompanying it has been delayed.

The GoM had sent the convergence bill ball back at Nariman to clarify the role of the spectrum manager, the name of the bill, and specify which ministry should play the steering role for convergence, among other issues. The IT, telecom and I&B ministry have all been jostling with each other take up that role.

The bottomline of Swaraj's statements is that the convergence draft will take some more time to see the light of day before being shaped as a bill. Following this it will be posted onto the Net for people's views. It will be placed before a parliamentary subcommittee before being introduced in parliament for enactment.

The convergence bill remains the bill that the industry is waiting to see enacted. And it may just scrape through in the budget session of Parliament, if things pan out.

WHAT'S UP ON THE Ku-BAND DTH FRONT? After more than five years of delays, the government on 3 November announced it had cleared all the hurdles in the way of Ku-band DTH television broadcasting. The GoM had thrashed out all modalities of opening up DTH it was declared. CNBC India reported that the government had decided to open up DTH to as many players as possible. All that remained were for details of the clearance to be spelled out.

Two months have gone by and we're still waiting.

BUDGET BLUES: What of Budget 2000? It held little cheer for the CATV industry. Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha didn't fulfil expectations of the industry of declaring entertainment (broadcasting) on par with infotech. Large cable networks were however given a sop in that the duty on fibre optic cable was slashed from the earlier 15% to 5%.

VAT POSTPONED TILL 2002: The deadline of 1 April, 2001 for collective introduction of value added tax in states was extended in August provisionally to 1 April, 2002. The decision to extend the deadline was taken by the empowered committee of state finance ministers.

DOOR OPENED FOR PRIVATE PLAYERS TO OPERATE SATELLITE SYSTEMS: It hasn't all been dither on the part of the government. In May, India opened the door for private firms to own and operate communication satellite systems and offered the local INSAT system for commercial use by private agencies.

"This new policy provides the mechanism for investments by the private sector in the field of communication satellites," said INSAT programme director S. Rangarajan.

Sun TV and Eenadu TV were the first players to get permission to enter the fray. They set up their own earth stations and were granted uplinking facilities.

The most ambitious project however is Chairman of Zee Telefilms Subhash Chandra's Agrani satellite project. The Agrani is something very close to Chandra's heart. But the $800-million price tag, of which Chandra has to pump in $120 million as equity from his end, is going to be something even a high risk player like him is going to find difficult to pull off.

The project has also run into export licence issues under US munitions restrictions imposed after India's nuclear explosions. The curbs have not been eased yet despite the high hopes that followed Prime Minister AB Vajpayee's recent visit to the US.

The convergence bill remains the bill that the industry is waiting to see enacted. And it may just scrape through in the budget session of Parliament, if things pan out. Otherwise its rewind to a year back when the hope was that the monsoon session would throw it up.

Any wagers on when parliament sees the bill? The answer my friends is still blowin' in the wind.

Latest Reads
Supreme Court questions MIB’s digital chatter monitoring proposal

The government proposes, Supreme Court disposes. Well, almost. Not fully yet. Though, the apex court has questioned a Ministry of Information and Broadcasting proposal to monitor digital chatter and online footprint, observing today that if done it would be "like creating a surveillance state".

Regulators I&B Ministry
Comment: Why it’s important for Rathore at MIB to walk the (sports) talk

He may have started the #HumFitToh IndiaFit campaign that went viral on social media last month and had celebs and plebs posting images of their health routine.

Regulators I&B Ministry
CCI reduces penalty on broadcast companies for rigging bids

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Wednesday waived the penalty imposed on Globecast and reduced by 30 per cent the penalty imposed on Essel Shyam Communication Ltd (ESCl), rechristened Planetcast, for bid-rigging in tenders for procurement of end-to-end broadcasting services for various...

Regulators TRAI
TRAI: Make STBs, content & telecom services disabled- friendly

With an aim to make communications and TV services more accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has come out with a series of recommendations, including a confusing one suggesting that 50 per cent TV channels to be developed in PWD-friendly and...

Regulators TRAI
Tata Sky mulls fresh petition against TRAI tariff rollout

MUMBAI: Indian DTH operator Tata Sky is exploring options of filing a fresh petition in Delhi High Court against a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India directive to implement a new tariff regime from 3 July. Industry sources indicated that though Tata Sky withdrew its petition filed in the...

Regulators TRAI
VCPL to contest SEBI order on NDTV share acquisition

Following the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)’s directive to make an open offer for acquiring NDTV shares, Vishvapradhan Commercial Pvt Ltd (VCPL) has decided to appeal against the order with the Securities Appellate Tribunal.

Regulators TRAI
TRAI says b'cast & cable tariff, inter-connect orders come into effect 3 July

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today issued a statement stating that its tariff order for the broadcasting and cable sector will come into effect from 3 July 2018 as judicial compliances have been complied with.

Regulators TRAI
TRAI fines Jio, Airtel, others for not meeting service quality norms

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) rapped leading operators, including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular on the knuckles for failing to meet the Quality of Service standards in the December quarter, reported news agency PTI.

Regulators TRAI
Comment: TRAI uplinks progressive recommendations; now MIB, others need to downlink them

The approximately Rs 1,400 billion Indian broadcasting and cable sectors, reeling under the impact of a slow economy and hemmed in by erratic policy-making, would be breathing a bit easy after TRAI’s recommendations on issues related to uplink and downlink of TV channels and teleports.

Regulators TRAI

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories