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Zee, Star, NBA oppose converged regulator for broadcast and telecoms

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MUMBAI: Two of India’s biggest broadcasters Star India and Zee Network and industry association News Broadcasters Association (NBA) have opposed the TRAI’s proposal to have a converged regulator, a concept being debated as part of a consultation paper floated by the regulatory body. 

In its lengthy submission to the TRAI’s paper on formulation of National Telecoms Policy 2018, Star, while suggesting a “separate regulator” for broadcasting sector was unfeasible, has said, “With a converged regulator for ICT and broadcasting there is always the risk of ‘false equivalence’ being drawn between the two sectors.”

Pointing out that convergence was an aid to make content available to consumers and increasing the opportunities for content producers/rights holders to maximise monetisation opportunities involving intellectual property rights over content, Star highlighted, “Creative eco-system being an entirely separate unique value chain from ICT, should always be treated with a view to uphold and protect IPs.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Zee said the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) was the nodal ministry for all broadcasting related issues and it would be “inappropriate” for the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to propose a converged regulator in its policy document without making the MIB a part of the process.

“It may also be pointed out that setting up a convergent regulator would also require a convergence bill (to be okayed by Parliament) outlining the very scope of convergent regulations and various issues associated with it,” Zee explained its stance.

Subhash Chandra-controlled Zee network has gone ahead and questioned the TRAI’s various consultation papers on broadcasting industry-related issues that include the one on NTP 2018 and another one on uplinking and downlinking.
“It is astounding that there is no correlation between the two consultation papers,” Zee has submitted, “If the comments (from the industry) provided against one consultation paper are accepted, these would be counter to the comments/ recommendations against the other consultation paper.”

Both Star and Zee in their submissions have cited in the defence of their stance views of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Information Technology on broadcast regulation articulated in its latest report tabled few weeks back.
In its report, the parliamentary panel observed that the broadcast sector has developed so much that it would be advisable for the government to explore a separate regulator and till that happens, powers of TRAI could be explored to be expanded as an interim measure.

By trying to bring in the “convergence issue”, wherein broadcasting and telecom were “treated under the same umbrella” in a converged manner, the TRAI “would be acting contrary” to the views articulated by the parliamentary panel that had pushed for separate regulators for telecoms and broadcast sectors, both Star and Zee pointed out.

NBA, which is an apex industry body comprising most of the TV (and digital) news ventures as its members, also joined in the issue with Star and Zee to observe the regulatory authority dealing with content issues must be different from the body dealing with other issues in the broadcasting sector.

The TRAI regulates the carriage side of the broadcast industry that includes issues such as tariff, inter-connect and quality of service. It also holds sway over matters like OTT, broadband and net neutrality that straddle both segments of broadcast and telecoms services.

Also Read :

MIB reverts to earlier norms of seeking nod from ISRO on uplink/downlink of TV channels

Government toying easing downlink norms

The Communication Convergence Bill, 2001

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