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Trai to approach I&B ministry to fastrack recommendations on broadcasting

Livemint:  October 24, 2017

New Delhi: In a bid to push reforms in the broadcasting sector, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has decided to approach the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry to take a call on a range of recommendations pending with the latter since 2013. The regulator will write to the ministry as well as meet the new I&B minister Smriti Irani with a request to consider the proposals, two people familiar with the development said.

“We are planning to make a formal request to the ministry to consider the recommendations submitted by Trai on multiple issues across the broadcasting sector and take a call. The reforms have been stuck for so long; it is like a black hole,” said one of two people cited above, on the condition of anonymity.

Before making recommendations on various issues, Trai holds consultations with all the stakeholders, analyses their responses and then submits the conclusion (as recommendations) to the ministry for approval, as per the regulator’s mandate.

At present, there are nine sets of recommendations pending for approval with the ministry on multiple issues, including media ownership norms, monopoly in cable TV sector, direct-to-home (DTH) licensing guidelines, restrictions on ownership of TV channels and DTH platforms by certain government entities, radio audience measurement, digital terrestrial transmission and infrastructure sharing.

In one of the recommendations, the regulator has proposed barring Central and state government-funded entities from entering the business of broadcasting or distribution of TV channels. In another, it has recommended regulatory framework for radio audience measurement.

“Among the most important ones right now are the media-ownership norms, DTH licensing guidelines and digital terrestrial transmission. DTH firms are running on interim licences; there are no guidelines,” said one of the two people mentioned above.

In 2014, the regulator had submitted recommendations on media ownership rules across television, radio and print mediums and internal plurality of news. In 2015, Trai had proposed increasing the licence duration of DTH firms to 20 years and reducing their annual fee to 8% of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) from 10% of gross revenue. As for digital terrestrial transmission, the regulator had proposed a road map for the process by opening the space to private broadcasters, earlier this year.

I&B ministry did not respond to an e-mailed query seeking comment on pending Trai recommendations.

Media industry executives believe that the sector has suffered enough and it is time to take action regarding the recommendations.

“The reforms have been stuck and this is hurting the sector. The sector has not been able to attract FDI (foreign direct investment). There is nobody to keep a check on quality of services and small cable operators are being dominated by big multi-system operators. There is no transparency in the sector. It is high time that the ministry takes a call on the pending regulation,” said an executive at one of the leading broadcasters, who declined to be named.

Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.