New Delhi: Fearing increased cost for television viewers and broadcasting industry, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is unlikely to recommend a change in the existing licencing policy for allocation of channels and is likely to back the continuation of existing norms in the sector. Sources stated that the TRAI, which is also the regulator for the broadcasting sector in the country, is unlikely to recommend auction of television channels fearing that this could exponentially increase the costs and tarriffs in the sector and could harm the interests of the industry and consumers.
A detailed recommendation of the regulatory body on a reference sought by the Union information and broadcasting ministry is likely to be made soon, sources added.
It is also learnt that the government believes that auction of television channels would make the broadcasting sector unviable economically and could escalate costs exponentially.
An indication to the change in government stand over the issue came when the I&B ministry — without waiting for the TRAI recommendations — last week approved licenses for three channels by Baba Ramdev under the existing licencing policy for allocation of television channels. The move came after repeated representations by the broadcasters who had petitioned the government over the stalling of the licensing process in the sector due to the pending policy review.
This newspaper had on November 30 last year first reported that the I&B ministry has decided to seek TRAI recommendation on the auction of television channel frequencies on the lines of spectrum, coal block and FM radio auctions. Seeking the TRAI suggestions, the government was of the view that it could generate additional revenue for the government and bruing in more transparency to the process.
Under the current process an applicant needs to seek permission from the I&B ministry for setting up a new television channel. The channel operators are also required to seek an annual renewal for their operations. During the current process the new applicant also has to seek security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Presently there are 391 news channels and 492 non news channels operational in the country. According to various estimates media and entertainment industry is one of the fastest growing sector’s of the country.