Television channels beaming into India will soon have to cough up a licence fee. This is a part of the government's policy to regulate the country's broadcasting sector.
As per the proposed policy, every channel beamed to India will have to register with the government and should enter into a licensing agreement with it.
The government is also proposing an amendment to the Cable Television Act in the regard. "The amendment will make it mandatory for the cable distribution companies to show only those channels which have a licence to operate," said a senior government official.
Besides, each channel operating in India will also have to go through a stringent screening process. The channels will have to provide the government with complete information about their promoters as well as the source of their funds.
The government also wants to examine the channels’ business plan for India as well as their books of accounts. Channels aired in India will also have to follow the Indian advertising and programming code.
Channels not confirming to the rules will be banned and will not be available on cable network companies and other television channel distribution networks like direct-to-home (DTH) or broadband networks.
According to senior information and broadcasting ministry officials, apart from the licence, channels will also have to set up an India office or enter into an agreements with a local Indian company.
Besides, channels beamed in India will have to meet the requirements regarding distribution regulations. Currently, cable network companies can distribute channels which are not registered in India.
This has lead to the information and broadcasting ministry regularly coming out with specific directions to cable companies to block channels which are not conforming to government norms.
The proposed policy is also expected to make it mandatory for television channels to offer the feed to all networks, including DTH on a non-discriminatory basis. This has been done to ensure that channels give signals to platforms belonging to competitors and not block services to them.
To ensure proper implementation of the rules, the government will release the list of channels with licences periodically.