The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today made a strong case for allowing private participation in terrestrial television broadcasting, which has so far been reserved for the public broadcaster, Prasar Bharati.
Signaling the need for allowing private participation in the terrestrial form of broadcasting, the regulator pointed out in a consultation paper that allowing the private sector in terrestrial TV broadcasting would end the monopoly of Doordarshan and provide for plurality of views.
Pointing out that in almost all the developed countries in the world, terrestrial TV broadcasting is not exclusively reserved for the public service broadcasters, Trai said that licencing of private terrestrial broadcasters would also lead to more choice for consumers as these terrestrial channels will produce their own programmes.
"In case of terrestrial broadcasting, the viewers will get such Free to Air channels without having to pay any subscription fee," Trai said adding that private terrestrial television broadcasting would lead to enhanced coverage of local issues, events, music and culture.
Apart from cable television networks and the DTH service, analog terrestrial television is now also subject to competition from distribution of video and film content over the Internet and telecommunication networks. The technology of digital terrestrial television has evolved as a response to these challenges," the consultation paper said.
The regulator said it was desirable to remove any statutory restrictions on participation of the private sector in terrestrial television broadcasting.
Trai, however, added that it was not very clear, at this point of time, as to how many broadcasters would be interested in terrestrial television broadcasting.
"It may be too late to open up terrestrial television broadcasting for private sector participation as cable TV networks have already spread to all the urban areas of the country. Rural areas can be covered by DTH. There is likely to be very little interest in case private terrestrial television broadcasting is restricted to digital format only because of non-existence of digital receivers in the country," Trai said in the consultation paper. The regulator however hintedthat terrestrial television broadcasting sector should be subjected to strict conditions.
"Television can influence and mould public opinion to a great extent. Therefore it is necessary to lay down eligibility conditions for award of license to Private Terrestrial Television Broadcasters, to prevent mischievous/ irresponsible elements from obtaining access to this powerful medium of mass communication," the consultation paper saids.
The regulator has sought the opinion of the stakeholders in the conditions for allowing companies, including foreign equity participation to operate in the sector.