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Help Trai stand on unified licences upsets broadcasters
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New Delhi: With no clarity on broadcasting licence proposed by Trai under Unified Licensing Regime, broadcasters and cable industry are upset with the regulator saying that the move will open a backdoor for telecom companies and BWA licence-holders to enter into broadcasting services, bypassing the mandate of I&B ministry.

Currently, under the government’s allocation of business rules, I&B ministry has the mandate to allot TV channel licences and formulate the uplink and downlink rules for broadcasters. Now, Trai has proposed a fee of R20 crore for a national-level unified licence under the new regime whereby there will be only four types of licence in future as against many across the communication sector at present including a broadcasting licence. However, the draft policy fails to clarify on how the broadcasting licences will pan out or what will happen to the existing 800-odd TV licences given by the I&B ministry.

However, Trai’s proposal of a unified licence regime stems from its recommendation on ‘Spectrum Management & Licensing Framework’ issued in May 2010, which talks about the spectrum requirements for future usage by various services like broadband, mobile telephony, broadcasting, 4G services among others.

Trai had said in 2010: “Growing number of countries are re-examining their compartmentalised licensing classifications and giving operators the flexibility to provide any or all kinds of services under a single umbrella or converged licence. The licensing framework should be designed so as to cater to future market and technological development, which are very difficult to anticipate.”

Trai, however, concedes its recommendations on Unified licensing regime proposed in October 2003 were not accepted by the government then. Companies engaged in broadcasting and cable services said the department of telecommunication (DoT) and I&B ministry seemed to be on a different path when it came to broadcasting services.

“There is no clarity on broadcasting licences that Trai is talking about in the draft paper. Does this mean those who own a telecom or BWA licence can become a broadcaster under the unified licence regime? I think the move is to allow 4G players become a broadcaster without going through the laid down laws of I&B ministry. This has marks of becoming a 4G scam in future,” said Roop Sharma, president of Cable Operators Federation of India, the apex body of leading cable operators.

Several other top functionaries of cable and broadcasting bodies said the matter is ‘serious’ and needs due attention. “We are studying it. This will take some time. DoT issuing a unified licence including broadcasting licence in future makes the Trai paper interesting,” Ashok Mansukhani, president of MSO Alliance, the apex body of leading Multi Service Operators (MSOs) said.

Avnindra Mohan of IBF and member of government-mandated digitisation taskforce too agree that the matter requires serious attention. Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) is the apex body of leading broadcasters.

Source: The Financial Express

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