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Norms for cable TV, news channels, DTH, FM radio and print media on hold

25-October-2004
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Norms for cable TV, news channels, DTH, FM radio and print media on hold

The list of pending issues in the media sector is growing. Whether it is cable television, direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting, radio or print media, policy decisions are awaited all across these segments. While decisions got delayed in the first part of the year because of the change in government, subsequent bureaucratic changes in the information and broadcasting ministry kept things in a limbo. A new set of bureaucrats is in the process of taking charge in the ministry.

In the area of cable television, the government is examining the proposals submitted by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on implementation of conditional access system (CAS). Trai had given three options of rolling out CAS. But, the government is taking time on CAS, because it had burnt its fingers on the issue last year, said a source in the I&B ministry.

Again in television, a verdict is hanging on investment by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) in news TV channels.

Currently, FIIs are not allowed to invest in news channels, but there are indications that the norms may be liberalised.

Some news channels, which have FII funds, have been permitted to uplink from India till a new law comes into force.

In direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting, the Tata-Star application has been pending with the government for several months now.

Also, on the DTH policy side, there may be changes.

Recently Trai gave its recommendations on mandatory sharing of channels on the DTH platform, but the government is yet to take a call on the issue. If the regulator’s suggestion is accepted, all broadcasters will have to share their channels across cable and DTH platforms. So far, broadcasters such as Star and Sony have refused to provide their channels to the Zee group’s DTH platform—Dish TV.

The radio sector too is awaiting a policy for the second phase of private FM. Again, Trai has made its recommendations, but the government is yet to take a decision on the new norms for FM-II. In the first phase of FM privatisation, it was a licence fee regime, which was resisted by the players. Even as Trai suggested a shift from the licence fee regime to a revenue-sharing era, indications are that a middle path may be adopted.

In the case of community radio, Trai is still consulting with industry players. Recommendations are expected sometime in November, Trai officials said. Satellite radio is another area that the regulator is looking at.

Print media is no different. Changes are expected here too. The Cabinet, last month, decided to form a group of ministers (GoM) to take a comprehensive look into the print media sector. The GoM is yet to be formed.

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