New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has decided to consult industry stakeholders on the possibility of auctioning satellite television channels on the lines of private FM radio, in attempt to enhance revenue for the government.

At present, TV channels need uplinking and downlinking licences from the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry to operate. In a consultation paper titled Issues relating to uplinking and downlinking of television channels in India, The telecom and broadcast regulator said the plan is to review the provisions of existing guidelines and suggest amendments as the current guidelines are more than five years old.

There were 877 permitted TV channels across the country as of 31 October, according to a master list of permitted private satellite TV channels released by the I&B ministry.

Trai’s move comes after the I&B ministry, in a letter dated 21 August, sought the regulator’s recommendations on various issues relating to permission guidelines for satellite TV channels including the evaluation of an auction process.

“MIB…has stated that the present uplinking guidelines, and downlinking guidelines which came into effect from 5th December 2011 are now more than 5 years old. Further, MIB has also stated that keeping in view the change in technology, market scenarios, and the lesson learnt in the last few years of their operations, there is a need to review/ amend some of the provisions of these guidelines to ensure healthy growth of the broadcasting sector," Trai said, in a statement.

With this consultation paper, the regulator is also looking to evaluate the current categories of channels and increasing the processing fee of applications. At present, there are only two categories of channels—news and current affairs channels, and non-news and current affairs channels. As per existing policy guidelines, a processing fee of Rs10,000 is charged from all applicants.

Additionally, the consultation paper will delve into transferring of licences, encryption of TV channels, entry fee rates and use of foreign satellites for broadcasting.

The authority has sought comments from various stakeholders by 18 January and counter-comments by 31 January to access the viability of the auction process and evaluate other provisions of uplinking and downlinking guidelines.

Meanwhile, Trai is also working on a consultation paper to promote ease of doing business in the broadcast sector and is expected to come out with its recommendations in a few weeks.

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