TRAI suggests sweeping changes for streamlining process of granting licences in broadcasting sector

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has suggested sweeping changes in the way the permissions are granted to new TV channels, distribution platform operators (DPOs), and teleport operators.

As far as permission for satellite TV channels by the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) is concerned, the authority has suggested that channels having permission for uplinking from India should require registration only while the channels being uplinked from outside India should require permission as well as registration.

According to the TRAI, the ministry of home (MHA) should take the decision on security clearance to a company applying for a TV channel licence company and its key personnel within a period of 60 days. Also, in case of any change in key personnel, MHA should take the decision within a period of 60 days.

It further stated that the validity period of security clearance granted to a company should be equal to the permission/ license period granted to that company for broadcasting services. The security clearance granted to the key personnel of a company should remain valid for 10 years.

In cases where an existing broadcasting company, having a valid security clearance, is seeking permissions for additional satellite TV channels, the process of seeking fresh security clearance from MHA should be done away with, the authority recommended.

It further suggested that the department of space (DoS) should take the decision on clearance for satellite use for broadcasting services within a period of 60 days.

The recommendations are part of TRAI’s consultation paper on ‘Ease of Doing Business in Broadcasting Sector’.

In cases where a broadcasting company is seeking permissions for uplinking of new satellite TV channels to the already cleared satellites, the process of seeking fresh clearance from DoS should be done away with, TRAI said.

The authority has also suggested doing away with the requirement of examining net worth, ownership details, shareholding pattern and its effect on net worth by the empanelled.

Instead, a self-declaration, in a prescribed format, stating that the applicant company meets net-worth requirements, as specified under the policy guidelines, should be taken from the applicant company at the time of submitting the application. This declaration should be supported by duly audited financial statements of the company.

It also recommended that a self-declaration, in a prescribed format, stating that the applicant company complies with clause 1.3 and 1.4 of the downlinking policy guidelines should be taken from the applicant company at the time of submitting the application.

Consequently, the requirement of examining the compliance of clause 1.3 and 1.4 of the downlinking policy guidelines by Department of Revenue (DoR) should be done away with.

The TRAI has stated that a condition should be added in the procedure of granting permissions that if the information provided by a company is found incorrect or incomplete at any stage during the entire permission period, the permission would become void.

The TRAI has also asked the MIB to develop an integrated online portal for online payments, frequency assignments, endorsements, registrations, permissions, licenses and renewals. The proposed portal must be integrated with the other e-governance systems of the government.

The integrated online portal should be developed as early as possible, within a period of 1 year from the date of acceptance of these recommendations, the TRAI noted.

The authority has further suggested that application for change in the logo, name, language, and format of a channel should be processed through the proposed integrated online portal to take the decision on the same. It has also asked for discontinuing the procedure for seeking permission name/logo change.

It has also stated that the MIB should maintain an updated database of all channels in the proposed integrated online portal and the same should be accessible to all the regulating and monitoring agencies namely MIB, TRAI, DoS, MHA, WPC, and NOCC.

The MIB, according to TRAI, may carry out detailed examination if a request for a change in name, logo, or language of a channel is made within one year from the last such change.

In such cases, MIB should take a decision on the request for a change in name, logo, or language of a channel within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of application along with the prescribed charges.

In all other cases, the proposed changes in the logo, name, or language of a channel should be taken on record online after payment of the prescribed charges, it added.

It also stated that the necessary permissions for effecting the change in format of a channel should be granted within 60 days after receipt of the application and payment of the prescribed charges. It includes the time taken by MIB, WPC, and NOCC.

For permission regarding temporary uplinking of live coverage of events for viewing in and outside India, the authority has suggested that the registration of the necessary details by the applicant company along with the requisite documents and payment of requisite fee through the proposed integrated online portal should be sufficient if the applicant company has agreement with the existing broadcasters and teleport operator and the applicant company propose to use the pre-approved DSNG and space spectrum for temporary uplinking of live event.

In other cases, it has recommended that the existing process needs to be automated using the proposed integrated online portal to improve efficiency.

For the renewal of permission for satellite TV channel, the Authority has recommended that payment of annual permission fee as per the extant policy guidelines should be done through a proposed integrated online portal. The periodicity of the renewal of licenses should continue to be on annual basis.

As far as the grant of permission for teleport services by MIB is concerned, the authority has recommended that the procedure for granting permission for uplinking of satellite TV channels should be made applicable to grant permission for teleport services also.

Grant of DTH licence

The authority recommends that the MHA should take the decision on security clearance to an applicant company seeking licence for DTH services and its key personnel within a period of 60 days. Also, in case of any change in key personnel, MHA should take the decision within a period of 60 days.

It further stated that the DoS should take the decision on clearance for satellite use for DTH services within a period of 60 days.

For frequency allocation and grant of wireless operating licence (WOL) by WPC and permission to operationalise broadcast services by NOCC, the authority has suggested that the WPC should allocate the spectrum for commercial satellite usage as and when there is a demand for the same from service providers in a time-bound manner.

The WOL should be valid for a period equivalent to service license/ permission period. The service providers should continue to pay requisite fees to WPC on annual basis, and the same should be paid at least 60 days before the due date to ensure continuity of the license.

A condition should be prescribed in the WOL that any delay in payment of requisite fees shall lead to penalties and cancellation of the applicable licence.

Time frame to grant permissions by MIB and WPC

The TRAI has recommended that in cases of permissions/ licenses where security clearance of the company from MHA or satellite clearance from DoS or both are required, normally the decision to grant permission should be taken by MIB in consultation with MHA and DoS within 3 Months from the date of application.

In case of permissions, where security and satellite clearances are not required, normally the decision to grant permission should be taken by MIB within 45 Days from the date of application.

WPC should take the decision on the grant of WOL including allocation of frequency within a period of 60 days. The decision to grant permission for operationalising the services, including time taken by MIB, WPC, DoS, MHA, and NOCC for issuing permissions, should be completed within 6 months period in case of uplinking of a channel by a new company/ teleport/ DTH licenses.

As far as the open sky policy for Ku band, the authority has recommended that the issue of open sky policy for Ku band frequencies may be taken up by MIB in INSAT Coordination Committee (ICC) meeting and the same should be adopted.

For registration/renewal to provide cable TV services, the authority has recommended that the registration of local cable operator (LCO) and its renewal should be carried out through the online portal. Further, the period of registration for LCO should be increased to 5 years. MIB should take necessary steps to frame Right of Way Rules under the Cable TV Act.

You may be interested