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TRAI not in favour of auctioning TV channels

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has said the existing administrative system for grant of permissions for uplinking and downlinking of TV channels should be continued.

india Updated: Jun 25, 2018 22:46 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran and Vidhi Choudhary
TRAI,TV channels,Auction
Broadcasters had opposed the proposal put forth by the ministry of information and broadcasting in August 2017, suggesting auctioning of TV channel as is done in the case of FM Radio. (File photo)

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is not in favour of auctioning TV channels, in what must come as relief to private broadcasters.

In a set of recommendations on uplinking and downlinking of TV channels released on Monday, TRAI has said the existing administrative system for grant of permissions for uplinking and downlinking of TV channels should be continued as the auction process for grant of permissions for uplinking and downlinking of TV channels is not feasible.

Broadcasters had opposed the proposal put forth by the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) in August 2017, suggesting auctioning of TV channel as is done in the case of FM Radio.

In their feedback to TRAI, stakeholders unanimously opposed the auction of satellite TV channels, with some pointing out that “auctioning of only scarce resources can be performed, whereas satellite spectrum is in abundance and would continue to increase over a period of time with the increase in number of satellites”.

Some stakeholders also put forth the view that an auction would increase the cost of a licence , and that this would have to be passed on to end subscribers, making content expensive.

“Few stakeholders are of the view that in case auctions are adopted for satellite TV channels, India may lose its status of global hub for uplinking facilities which may encourage broadcasters to move to teleport hubs in other countries,” the TRAI recommendations said.

TRAI’s recommendations are its response to a note from MIB to it, on the need for revisions and amendments to the present uplinking and downlinking guidelines in effect since December 2011.

While it has agreed to enhance the annual licensing fee, the TRAI has said there will be no changes in the permission and entry fee for uplinking and downlinking of channels.

Earlier, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) had written to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeing revision of some of the policies of MIB, including the levy of processing fee for temporary uplink of live events and the need for security clearances to start new channels.

IBF had complained that delays in permissions to start new channels , and the end of the auctioning of free slots to private broadcasters on the DD FreeDish go against the very spirit of the ‘ease of doing business.’

The fresh set of recommendations from TRAI also said there will be no change in the existing definitions of ‘News and Current Affairs TV channels’, and ‘Non-News and Current Affairs TV channels’ and in the amount of minimum net-worth of an applicant company seeking permissions for uplinking and downlinking of TV channels.

It has also recommended a fixed fee of Rs3 Lakh for uplinking of a satellite TV channel from Indian soil, Rs7.5 lakh per annum for downlinking of a satellite TV channel, uplinked from India, and a fixed license fee of Rs22.5 lakh per annum for downlinking of a satellite TV channel, uplinked from foreign soil.

According to Ashish Pherwani, partner at consultancy firm EY, the Trai recommendations encourage growth in the broadcast sector.

“From a Make-in-India perspective, the more businesses are permitted to operate on competitive market terms, the better for the growth of broadcasting industry,” he added.

Leading broadcaster Star India Pvt Ltd said it was enthused by the Trai recommendations. “Broadly, moves to simplify and provide certainty for the entire licensing process while rejecting a baseless push towards an AGR (Adjusted Gross Revenue)-linked license fees are recommendations that should add to the ease of doing business in the sector if implemented,” said a spokesperson of the broadcaster in an emailed response.

First Published: Jun 25, 2018 22:38 IST