The new Information and Broadcasting Minister, Mr S. Jaipal Reddy, is no fresher to the sector. And for starters, he intends setting up a separate regulator for the broadcasting sector. Currently, the telecom watchdog, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is monitoring the broadcasting sector as well. Along with this, the new Minister also wants to ensure the autonomy of Prasar Bharati Corporation.
Speaking to newspersons after assuming charge of the I&B Ministry, Mr Reddy said, "Six years back, I had taken two important decisions. One was to operationalise the Prasar Bharati Act with the view to give functional autonomy to Doordarshan and All-India Radio and two, introduction of the Broadcasting Regulatory Authority (BRA) Bill."
He said that the BRA was essential, as the TRAI has been functioning on an ad hoc basis and that there was need for a full-time regulator. The regulatory authority would be set up on lines of international monitoring agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). A law in regard to the regulatory authority would be mooted at the earliest.
On the controversial issue of implementation of the conditional access system (CAS), Mr Reddy said that a political consensus would have to be evolved. The Congress and the Left parties had opposed the CAS rollout under the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
"There are problems with CAS, problems with direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting and FM radio. We will have to look into all these issues," Mr Reddy said.
"There are explosive disputes among the industry stakeholders and issues relating foreign equity caps. All these are policy issues for which there is need for consensus," he added.
Maintaining autonomy of the Prasar Bharati is high on the new Minister's agenda. "The functioning of a public broadcaster is very different from those of a private channel. The public broadcaster has to keep the larger social goal in view," he added.
The new Government is also not in favour of moral policing. Mr Reddy said, "I am liberal but not a libertine." He added that there is a need to draw a line between liberty and obscenity.