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I&B asks Trai to relook on FDI, uplinking & downlinking norms
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NEW DELHI: The government is considering policy changes in the broadcasting sector relating to FDI (foreign direct investment) and uplinking and downlinking norms for television channels.

The broadcast sector regulator is relooking into these two issues after the Information and Broadcasting Ministry requested it to revise the recommendations on them. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) received two letters from the I&B secretary Raghu Menon on 30 September and 8 October.

The department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), under the Commerce and Industry Ministry, had earlier in the year proposed that the FDI cap for FM radio be raised from 20 per cent to 24 per cent.

DIPP had also suggested that the FDI cap in the DTH sector be raised to 74 per cent from the existing 49 per cent.

Though Trai had given its recommendations on FDI in broadcasting sector in April 2008, in the light of DIPP’s suggestions, the ministry has requested the regulator to revise its recommendations.

In the first letter, the Ministry has asked Trai to revisit its recommendations of 26 April 2008 relating to FDI limits in the media.

In the second letter, the Ministry has said that Trai should consider the policy of permitting Uplinking or Downlinking permission to television channels as “the spectrum and transponder capacities for satellite TV channels are not unlimited.”

Menon points out that thanks to the liberal approach of the government towards uplinking and downlinking (according to the policies laid down in November and December 2005), permissions have been granted to 423 channels for uplinking, of which 230 are in the news category. In addition, 76 channels including 15 news channels have been uplinked from overseas and have been given downlinking permission. Apart from these, around 170 applications are awaiting approval.

Menon says that several issues such as licensing regulations, security conditions, and other factors may also have to be considered while arriving at a report.

The issues include putting a cap on the number of channels that can be permitted downlinking or uplinking permission, the maximum that can be allowed in the present available spectrum, whether channels should give assurance of a minimum five years regular telecast to ensure there are no premature closures and cancellation of licences if this happens. The license of ten years given at present should also be examined to see if it should be lesser or higher.

In addition, Trai has been asked to explore the possibility of using India as a television hub for uplinking for telecast in foreign countries as being down in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Trai has now asked stakeholders to submit their views by 2 November.

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