The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is now exploring ways to bringing in place a framework to regulate transmission of local television channels, mostly operated at the level of cable operations across the country.
It has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to suggest measures, if needed, to put in place a “comprehensive” set of provisions for such channels, including that for their registration, fee, eligibility requirements, their area of operation and other terms and conditions.
It has also sought the telecom regulator’s views on whether there was a case for putting a cap on the total number of ground-based channels operated by a cable operator or multi-system operator.
“Trai has also been requested to examine whether there was a need to prescribe separate eligibility criteria for cable operators transmitting local news and current affairs channels at their level.
Specific recommendations have been sought with regard to eligibility criteria, terms and conditions including foreign investment levels, net-worth criteria and requirement of security clearance for such channels,” a Ministry official said.
The need for putting in place a regulatory framework for local channels has been engaging attention of the ministry for “quite some time.”
“Such channels are presently not subject to a regulatory framework unlike private satellite TV channels permitted under the uplinking and downlinking guidelines of the Ministry. As a result, local channels continue to mushroom all over the country without having registration or licence,” the official said.
Violence of law
The intent of allowing cable operators to generate and transmit local programme was to keep the local people informed of relevant local issues.
However, instances have been brought to the notice of the Ministry that some cable operators are also venturing into transmission of local channels over wider geographical area which includes inter-state and intra-state transmission by sharing the same content with others on their network.
Besides this, the need bring in places a regulatory framework for local channels also assumes significance in view of the digitisation of cable TV sector being implemented in the entire country in a phased time bound manner, the official added.
Trai in its recommendations in 2008 recommended that local channel operators (LCOs) shall be permitted to transmit their ground-based channels.