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Zee challenges I&B, Trai on capping TV channels
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New Delhi: Lodging a strong protest with the government, Subhash Chandra’s Zee Network has said neither the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) nor the ministry of information & broadcasting (I&B) have any right or mandate to determine the number of channels which can be licensed or capped.

This comes within days of I&B ministry suspending the process of granting permission to the broadcasters for uplink of television channels citing scarcity of spectrum and limited transponder capacity on the satellites. Currently, there are 515 television channels operational in the country with around 160 new television channels waiting for the neccessary approvals from the government.

At present, I&B ministry has stopped processing any new applications from broadcasters to launch more TV channels. It has asked Trai to look into the matter if there could be any cap on the number of TV channels operating in the country.

“We do not believe that even the basic premise of various issues raised by I&B ministry is valid i.e. that the Trai or the I&B can determine the number of channels which can be licensed in India. They have no such right to determine, limit or control the number of channels,” says A Mohan, executive vice-president & head (corporate affairs), Essel Group.

“This would be similar to restricting the licence for a newspaper based on the premise that sufficient newsprint is not produced or available in the country,” says Mohan.

<img style="float:left; margin: 0 10px 0 0;" src="http://static.expressindia.com/expressindia/newpic/battle.jpg" />Zee Network says, if the I&B ministry moves to restrict the number of television channels in the country, then broadcasters would simply move to overseas locations to uplink and then apply for the downlink permission.

Instead of restricting the number of television channels, Zee Network has in fact urged the I&B ministry to put its in-house TV licence granting process on a fast track to a minimum of one-week time frame for processing the applications for new TV channels. Currently, it takes I&B ministry and other government agencies anywhere from six months to over one year to grant the permissions to launch new channels.

This gains significance after various stakeholders in the broadcasting business opposed the government move to restrict the entry of new broadcasters citing limited availability of spectrum. Last week, several teleport operators like Lamhas, and HFCL Satellite Communications had questioned the government move to stop granting television licenses.

“There is no scarcity of C-band transponders or spectrum. Even today there are unutilised capacities on several of the extended C-band transponders hosted on several satellites,” says Ajay Jain, CEO, Lamhas, a leading teleport operator that hosts several regional television channels.

Source: The Financial Express

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