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TRAI’s New Recommendations

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On “Issues relating to entry of certain entities into Broadcasting and Distribution activities” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recently issued recommendations.

With regards to the question of entry of State Governments, urban and rural local bodies, etc. into broadcasting activities, the Authority has taken note of the fact that at present these entities have not been permitted to enter into broadcasting activities.TRAI has recommended that the aspirations of the State Governments, as regards broadcasting, should be adequately met by Prasar Bharati and by imposing certain public service broadcasting obligations on private broadcasters as indicated below.

TRAI has recommended that certain public service broadcasting obligations be imposed on the broadcasters in the country. The preparation of content for public service broadcasting may be done by individuals including private broadcasters, NGOs, social action groups, etc., in addition to Prasar Bharati, DAVP, State Governments and their organs. The Government of India (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) may set up a regular body to approve and certify programmes as being fit for broadcast as part of the public service broadcasting (PSB) obligation.

In order to provide funds for such public service broadcasting programmes, TRAI has further recommended to establish a Fund, to be known as the Public Service Broadcasting Obligation Fund, on lines similar to the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund in the telecom sector, and imposing an annual Public Service Broadcasting Obligation levy on the private broadcasters in the country and a predetermined share from the percentage of gross revenue being paid by the identified stakeholders in the broadcasting sector.

In relation to the issue of entry of political parties into broadcasting activities, TRAI has recommended that political bodies should not be allowed to enter into broadcasting activities.

As regards the entry of religious bodies into broadcasting activities, TRAI has recommended that religious bodies may not be permitted to own their own broadcasting stations and teleports. This would be in conformity with the secular fabric of the Constitution.

In regards to the entry of State Governments into the distribution platform such as cable TV, DTH, etc., the Authority has noted that there are already 6 DTH operators, about 6000 multisystem operators and nearly 60,000 cable operators. Such being the case, and in the interest of fair competition, level playing field, and also considering the need to ensure proper enforcement mechanism equally applicable to all the players in the field, TRAI has recommended that the State Governments and their organs should stay away from  distribution activities. Suitable provisions for exit route within three to four years have been provided wherever state governments and their organs have entered such distribution activity.

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