New Delhi: With mushrooming of ground-based TV channels that operate in large areas through local cable operators without registration now coming under scanner, the government has sought Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) views on regulating these local cable channels.
The information and broadcasting ministry has asked Trai, the regulator for direct-to-home (DTH) services, if there is a need to regulate such local channels and put in place a comprehensive set of provisions for them.
The ministry has also asked Trai if there was need to put a cap on the total number of ground based channels operated by a single multi-system operator/cable operator. It has said that instances have come to its notice where some cable operators were found involved in transmission of local channels over wider geographical area and thus operating as state/regional/national channels like permitted private satellite TV channels without any permission.
In its reference, the ministry has asked Trai to examine whether there was a need to prescribe separate eligibility criteria for cable operators transmitting local news and current affairs channels at their level. It has also sought Trai’s specific recommendations with regard to eligibility criteria, terms and conditions including foreign investment levels, net-worth criteria and requirement of security clearance for such channels.
The regulation of such local or ground-based channels operating at the level of local cable operators (LCOs)/multi- system operators (MSOs) has assumed significance in view of the digitization of cable TV sector being implemented in the entire country in a phased time bound manner.
The ministry observed that such channels, popularly known as local channels, are currently not subject to a regulatory framework unlike private satellite TV channels permitted under its uplinking/downlinking guidelines.
“As a result, local channels continue to mushroom all over the country without having registration/license,” it said. “Given the present state of technological advancement, the tendency to network content at a larger geographical area has gained strength,” the ministry observed.