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Dealing with ISRO for transponders is a nightmare, says TRAI chairman Khullar

NEW DELHI: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Rahul Khullar is an angry man. He speaks against the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) style of functioning, urges for the formulation of a national media policy and bats for cross-media restrictions.

Noting that getting transponders from ISRO is a nightmare, Khullar said that government must take decisive steps on infrastructure for the broadcast sector to clear hurdles that impede growth.

“What a nightmare it is to deal with an office in Bangalore to try and get transponders in place! I have tried my best in beating my head against that wall. It’s like a Catch-22 situation. I will not give you a transponder and I will not let you get a transponder on your own,” Khullar said while speaking at CII Big Picture Summit 2014.

Asserting that airwaves are not the monopoly of the state, Khullar said that there is a need for talk about infrastructure issues like the efficient use of spectrum for both direct-to-home (DTH) and telecom operators.

He stated that the government must frame a national media policy that promotes a free media, plurality, self-regulation and a clear infrastructure policy.

“Let me tell you what I think should be the component of the national media policy. First, there must be a clear articulation that we want a free media—unhampered and unrestricted by the government in any way whatsoever,” Khullar said.

He stressed that the policy must disallow politicians and governments and their organs from entering into the broadcast business.

“Politicians, government, state governments and their organs have absolutely no business whatsoever being in broadcasting and platform space. It is my view that the government needs to announce this as an integral part of the national media policy,” he said.

In its recent recommendations on cross-media ownership, the sector regulator had urged the government to ban politicians and government from entering the broadcast sector.

“At this point, I cannot tell you what the government will or will not do. I firmly believe that it is time for us to have a national debate on whether we can allow practices such as largely prevalent in media and practices such as chief ministers controlling media distribution platforms, without harming national interest,” he added.

Khullar also affirmed that the media must be governed by an independent regulator.

“Simultaneously, the media itself must be subject to safeguards, whether that comes through other forms of independent regulator. You cannot have an institution which has right but no duties,” he said.

Flagging the issue of the ‘super regulator’ being mooted by the new government, Khullar reiterated that carriage must be the exclusive preserve of the telecom ministry while content must be left with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB).

“To amplify that, the department of telecommunications (DoT) should exclusively focus on carriage and carriage-related issues. They are not an institution used to public dealing and they are most definitely not designed to deal with content regulation,” he stated.

He also said that there is a huge hangover from the ’50s of what I&B is about. That hangover persists and needs to change, he noted.