Broadcasting sector against auctioning TV channel licences

MUMBAI: Stakeholders across the spectrum have vehemently opposed the auction of TV channel licence as it is technically not feasible and will lead to a bidding war for procuring licences which will increase the financial burden on TV broadcasters.

Star India submitted that the successful broadcasting of TV Channels requires coordinated use of the up-linking Space Spectrum, Satellite Transponder Capacity and Downlinking Space Spectrum, which cannot be auctioned together as they are not controlled by the same entity or even the Central Government.

The introduction of an auction route for channels would necessarily require the auction of the spectrum bundled with the satellite transponder allocation, complexity of process would not justify the negligible revenue that may be anticipated from such auction.

Viacom18 noted that the operation of satellite broadcasting cannot be compared with the operations of FM radio channels as the spectrum for the latter is rare as against satellite spectrum which is in abundance.

The broadcaster also argued that unlike FM radio, in TV broadcasting multiple channels can run of the same frequency. It also urged the government to launch more satellites to fulfill the needs of the broadcasting sector.

Sony Pictures Networks India noted that the proposal for auctioning of satellite TV channels as a complete package by way of uplinking from Indian soil to Indian satellite and downlinking in India would be backsliding proposal resulting in economic losses due to the scarcity of satellite transponders and other factors.

It also stated that the auction of individual legs of satellite television broadcasting i.e. uplinking space spectrum, satellite transponder capacity and downlinking space spectrum may not be technically feasible since uplink and downlink frequencies are tightly linked and require coordinated use for the successful broadcasting of satellite television channels.

ZEEL said that any attempt on the part of government to impose revenue based license fee on satellite TV channels and/or to earn revenue through auctioning of television/satellite spectrum would amount to curtailing/abridging the important right of Freedom of Speech and Expression as available to the TV channel Broadcasters under Article 19(1)(a) and would directly affect the economic viability of the TV channels.

Direct to home (DTH) operator Bharti Telemedia submitted that auctioning a resource by restricting its supply, would not be a right approach as it would lead to increase in the costs incurred by operators, as they would be forced to bid aggressively.

Multi system operator (MSO) IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd (IMCL) said that there should not be an auction process. It further stated that the granting of license need to be a quick and easy process to discourage reselling of licenses.

It also argued that it is not possible to auction uplink spectrum like in the case of FM where it is reusable as per the number of satellites available. A fixed spectrum fee is recommended which is already being paid to WPC.

Siti Networks also argued that auction of satellite TV channel as a complete package should not be allowed. In case of satellite TV channels even there are different genre and auction of each genre across geographies will not only be a tedious process would derail the whole broadcasting sector, it added.