Governments should not be in the business of broadcasting: TRAI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended that governments, both at the centre and state, or the departments and companies under them should not be allowed to enter the business of broadcasting and distribution of television channels.

''The central government ministries, central/state government departments, central/state government owned companies, central /state government undertakings, joint venture of the central/state governments and the private sector and central/state government funded entities should not be allowed to enter into the business of broadcasting and or distribution of TV channels,'' TRAI said in its recommendations.

TRAI also wanted the central government to keep Prasar Bharti, the state-owned public broadcaster, at an arm's length. The sector regulator recommended that measures should also be taken to ensure functional independence and autonomy of Prasar Bharti.

The authority said that in case some government bodies have been allowed to enter this business, they should be provided an appropriate exit route.

The recommendations come in the backdrop of the Tamil Nadu government making a strong pitch for granting licence to state-owned Arasu TV to run its cable network.

TRAI released the recommendations on ''Issues related to entry of certain entities in to the business of broadcasting and/or distribution of TV channels'' on Friday and put them up on its website after the ministry of information and broadcasting sought its recommendation on the issue on 30 November.

TRAI has recommended the following:

  • No governments (central or state) or departments and entities attached to them or joint ventures should be allowed to enter the business of broadcasting and/or distribution of TV channels;
  • The central government should keep an arm's length relationship with Prasar Bharti and further take measures to ensure functional independence and autonomy of Prasar Bharti;
  • Pending enactment of new legislation on broadcasting, the disqualifications of political bodies entering into broadcasting and/or distribution activities should be implemented through executive decision;
  • Where the central government has already accorded permission to any state governments or its companies or joint ventures to enter into the cable distribution platform, then the central government should provide an appropriate exit route.

TRAI also released a consultation paper on ''Definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) in Licence Agreements for provision of internet services and minimum presumptive AGR''.

TRAI recommendations follow a reference from the department of telecommunication (DoT) seeking TRAI's recommendations.

TRAI suggested amendment in the licenses in the following categories:

  • ISP licenses granted under 1998 guidelines (ISP Category Licence), and
  • ISP licenses granted under 2002 guidelines and subsequently under 2007 guidelines (ISP-IT Category Licence).

Applicability of minimum presumptive AGR and value (if applicable) for BWA spectrum holders under internet service/access service licence would be based on the provisions of NIA of 3G/BWA spectrum auction and in case of other licences with or without spectrum, including access service licences.

It also suggested amendment to the `Format of Statement of Revenue and Licence Fee' to be reported by various categories of internet service licensees and UAS licensees.

TRAI has sought comments of the stakeholders on the issues.