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Allow 100% foreign ownership in satellite radio broadcasting: TRAI

28-June-2005
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Allow 100% foreign ownership in satellite radio broadcasting: TRAI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended 100 per cent foreign ownership in satellite radio broadcasting with no entry fee for companies interested in this business.

Making a case for granting licenses, the broadcast regulator has said that it would be desirable to provide a licensing framework so that there is no uncertainty in the future. However, the license should be issued to the Indian subsidiary only to ensure no legal complications in enforcing regulation and collection of license fees. Licenses should be granted for a period of 10 years.

Currently, the four satellite digital radio systems in the world are WorldSpace (covers Africa, southern Europe, Middle East and Asia), XM Radio, Sirius Radio (US and parts of Canada), and MBCo (Japan and Korea). In India, WorldSpace through the West beam of its AsiaStar satellite provides about 40 radio channels and operates through a wholly owned subsidiary, WordSpace India Pvt Ltd. It is estimated that there are less than 50,000 receivers have been installed in the country.

In its recommendations submitted to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry today, the broadcast regulator has suggested that there should not be any entry fee for satellite radio either for the existing operator or for any new operator, unless the numbers of applicants are such that there is excess demand for the available spectrum space. "This would be in line with the recommendations made in the case of FM Radio that where there is adequate supply of spectrum, there should be no entry fee," it said.

However, if satellite radio broadcasters are allowed to use terrestrial repeaters (an equipment used to enhance weak signals), a revenue share of 4 per cent of gross earning generated in India should be imposed.

Satellite radio broadcasters normally offer content from various providers. The responsibility of the nature of content would be vested on the platform. The TRAI has also said that there should be only one license for carriage and the licensee would be responsible to the licensor for content regulation. The All India Radio (AIR) Programme and Advertisement codes should be made applicable to Satellite Radio also.

The regulator is also in favour of permitting news and current affairs on satellite radio. IT feels that since there is an addressable system, the Government would be able to block channels that offer inappropriate content. Also, the Government should encourage uplinking of satellite radio channels from the country.

"The precise policy framework should be common for both television and radio broadcasting. It is thus recommended that a common uplinking and downlinking policy should be evolved for both television and radio taking into account all aspects including security," it said.

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