The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had issued a consultation paper on the âIssues relating to Uplinking and Downlinking of TV Channels in Indiaâ on December 19, 2017, and asked for suggestions and comments from stakeholders.
The authority received 38 comments and 1 counter-comment. Following an Open House held in April this year, TRAI has now released a formal recommendation document related to definition of news and non-news channels, processing fees for application, process of granting licence and permission, encryption of channels and transfer of licences.
The last guidelines for uplinking and downlinking of satellite television channels were issued by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) in 2011. With changing times and advent of technology, MIB sent a letter to the TRAI in August 2017, seeking its recommendations under section 11 of the TRAI Act, 1997, on various issues.
Here are the major recommendations offered by TRAI:
Definition of 'News and Current Affairs channels' and Non-News and Current Affairs Channels'
The Authority recommends that the existing provisions of meaning of âNews and Current Affairs TV channelsâ, and âNonNews and Current Affairs TV channelsâ mentioned in the uplinking and downlinking guidelines dated 05.12.2011 should be converted into definitions. Accordingly, the Authority recommends the following definitions:
News and Current Affairs TV channels: A channel which has any element of news and current affairs in its programme content.
Non News and Current Affairs TV channels: A channel which does not have any element of news and current affairs in its programme content.
Simplification of processing of applications
MIB should set up an integrated online portal for broadcasters, teleport operators, and distributors of TV channels (DTH operators/HITS operators/MSOs) which should facilitate the filing of applications, processing in MIB, DoS and DoT, tracking of status of applications, payments, frequency allocations, endorsements, permissions, licences, registrations, and renewals with common database. Preferably, this portal should be integrated with other e-Governance systems like Bharatkosh portal, e-Office application etc. Access to the portal should be provided to the Authority also for information and analysis. Bharatkosh is an online payment gateway for payment of fee etc. to the Government of India
The integrated online portal should be developed as early as possible, preferably within a period of 1 year from the date of acceptance of these recommendations.
In cases of permissions/ licences where security clearance of the company from MHA or satellite clearance from DoS or both are required, normally the decision to grant permission should be taken by MIB in consultation with MHA and DoS within three months from the date of application.
In case of permissions, where security and satellite clearances are not required, normally the decision to grant permission should be taken by MIB within 45 days from the date of application.
WPC should take the decision on grant of WOL, including allocation of frequency, within a period of 60 days.
The decision to grant permission for operationalising the services, including time taken by MIB, WPC, DoS, MHA, and NOCC for issuing permissions, should be completed within six months in case of uplinking of channel by a new company/ teleport/ DTH licences.
Entry and licence fee
The authority recommends no change in the existing entry fee and licence fee. For uplinking of a satellite TV channel from Indian soil, a fixed permission fee of Rs 3 lakh per annum should be charged. For downlinking of a satellite TV channel, uplinked from India, a fixed licence fee of Rs 7.5 lakh per annum. For downlinking of a satellite TV channel, uplinked from foreign soil, a fixed licence fee of Rs 22.5 lakh per annum.
Encryption of TV channels
The Authority recommends that encryption of broadcast of FTA channels should not be mandated and it should be left to the broadcasters providing FTA channels.
Operationalisation of TV channel
A TV channel should be considered operational when the broadcaster starts continuous broadcasting of programmes on the channel; signals of that TV channel are available to the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC), which provides reports to the MIB regarding availability and monitoring of the programmes on that channel.
In case the signals of a permitted TV channel, already operationalised, remain discontinue for a continuous period of one year, permission granted for such channel should be withdrawn by MIB after following due procedure.
Transfer of licence
The transfer of permissions for uplinking and downlinking of TV channels should not be permitted between two different companies. However, in case of merger and acquisition as recognised under the Companies Act, 2013 or any other applicable law(s), transfer of permissions for uplinking and downlinking of TV channels should be permitted after following the due process.
Transfer of permission of TV channels to its subsidiary company or holding company or subsidiary company of the holding company should be allowed freely, provided such company has a valid uplinking and downlinking permission. Explanation: For the purpose of these recommendations, the definition of âsubsidiary companyâ and âholding companyâ shall be the same as assigned to them in the Companies Act, 2013(18 of 2013).
A lock-in period of one year from the date of operationalisation of a channel should be prescribed for the transfer of permission of such channel.
Possibilities of using the power of media by the companies
The Authority reiterates its recommendation titled âIssues Relating to Media Ownershipâ dated August 12, 2014.