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Centre releases new draft rules for uplinking TV channels

Permits with a five-year validity, expanded scope and easier clearance for non-news channels to cover events live, and higher preference to Indian satellites to uplink signals — these are among the new guidelines that the government has proposed for TV channels.

The information and broadcasting ministry has drafted these guidelines with a focus on ease of doing business, and making clearance for coverage of live sporting and cultural events simpler, people in the know of the matter said.

The ministry has rejected the recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, which regulates TV broadcasting as well, for a 50% increase in uplinking and downlinking fee and kept it at the current level, an official said.

As per the proposed rules, there will be no need for channels to get mandatory clearance every year. Permits will be given to Indian teleports to also uplink foreign channels, to facilitate more business.

Guidelines to uplink and downlink satellite television channels were last issued by the ministry in 2011. It has drafted the new guidelines after consulting with stakeholders. The ministry published the draft on Thursday evening and has invited comments on it within 15 days.

As of now, the channels registered under the ‘news’ category can live-telecast events. But the rest needs a written “temporary uplinking” permission from the ministry and local administration, even to telecast live events such as reality shows.

According to the new draft, such non-news channels can live telecast an event (other than in the nature of news and current affairs) after registering itself online on ‘Broadcast Seva, a ministry portal, at least five days before the event.

An official said this would facilitate the live telecast of many sporting events, award functions, socio-religious and cultural programmes and even radio addresses that are not qualified as news. “The channels can make a calendar of sorts of all the non-political events they would want to show, and proceed with the registrations beforehand. To broadcast an event like IPL or any traditional sport which was watched enthusiastically, channels had to pay Rs 1 lakh a day each and also wait for days for a written permission. We have done away with that,” an official said.

The decision as to whether or not the event being uplinked live is of the nature of news and current affairs will be of the central government, and shall be binding on the channel, the rules said.

An official said while the preference to Indian satellites was part of the government’s policy since 1997, this time the ministry has made it explicit that a satellite channel can only be uplinked on ‘C’ band or ‘Ku’ band, but not both simultaneously, and the latter will be restricted only to Indian satellites. The Ku and C bands are part of a spectrum of frequencies, ranging from 1 to 40 gigahertz, that are used in satellite communications.

“Over the years, ISRO has increased its fleet of satellites and is continuously doing that. There are at least ten new satellites in the offing. GSAT-30, for instance has the capacity to provide coverage and communication services to Indian mainland and islands through the Ku-band and wide coverage covering the Gulf countries, a large number of Asian countries and Australia through the C-band. We want companies to make use of this,” the official added.

The official said the government “was also looking at ways to ensure there was no threat to national security by maximising the use of Indian satellites”. The Department of Space and Atomic Energy comes under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the last few years, India has promoted several space programmes.

An official said the new draft has been framed keeping the need to boost the broadcast sector in mind. “Now Indian teleports can become a hub for the region as they will now be allowed to uplink foreign channels to other countries. This will lead to more forex inflows.”

I&B ministry officials had met several media bodies and experts from the law ministry and space department before finalising the draft.

The new rules also permit a company or limited liability partnership (LLP) to launch a teleport, hub or uplink a channel. The ministry has retained the rule for security clearances for TV channels. The clearance is granted by the home ministry. It is valid for ten years, but can be revoked if the home ministry sees repeated violations.

―Gadgets Now

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