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Channels Protest Trai ‘Interference’ At IBF meeting

25-February-2004
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Channels Protest Trai ‘Interference’ At IBF meeting

The regulator’s recommendation to defer the conditional access system (CAS) may have brightened the mood of most pay broadcasters, but they are unable to smile, just yet. Television broadcasters are upset with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for including business-related issues in its first consultation paper on the broadcasting industry.

At the board meeting of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) here on Tuesday, channels’ resentment against Trai clearly showed, according to industry sources.

Having functioned in an unregulated environment for years, broadcasters are finding Trai’s effort, to regulate pricing of pay channels and restrict advertising in them, hard to swallow. Speaking to eFE after the meeting, Prasar Bharati CEO K S Sarma said that broadcasters don’t want any “interference” while conducting their business of running TV channels. There were talks of how the “fundamental right” to do business would be thwarted, if Trai interfered with the business of channels, it is learnt. The appropriate Constitutional clause was also cited at this meeting.

Broadcasters are planning to make a presentation to Trai, stating that it cannot step into their area of “rights” and “business”, once the second consultation paper on CAS is out. As for state broadcaster Prasar Bharati, it’s up to the government to decide an ad cap, said Mr Sarma.

While Trai chairman Pradip Baijal refused to comment on the broadcasters’ grievances, he said the second consultation paper on CAS would be issued soon. Interestingly, after asking the government to defer CAS for three months, Mr Baijal is meeting representatives of various state governments on Wednesday, for their views on the controversial system.

Besides, discussing issues like pricing of channels and limiting ads, broadcasters took a serious view of “carriage fee” at the meeting. Trai should prevent cable operators from demanding a carriage fee from free-to-air broadcasters, rather than interfering with pay channels’ business, they suggested.

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