In order to give competition to the 850-odd private television channels and to promote their point of view to the masses, both Central and state governments, their ministries and their entities, including public sector undertakings, want to own their own television channels and possibly their own distribution networks.
The ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) wants the sector regulator to give its fresh recommendations in the matter even though the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in its 2008 recommendations made it clear that it did not want the state governments and their organs entering the broadcasting sector.
This comes after the I&B ministry said it has received requests from central government ministries and from several state governments to enter the broadcasting sector.
"The I&B ministry has sought the recommendation of Trai regarding the entry of central/state governments and their entities into the broadcasting sector," the I&B ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The I&B ministry has sought the views of Trai regarding the entry of the following entities in the broadcasting sector: Central/State ministries and departments, central/state government owned companies, central/state government undertakings/joint ventures of the central/state government and the private sector/central and state government funded entities.
Now, Trai will have to start a fresh consultation paper inviting comments from the stakeholders. However, the privately run broadcasters said such a move may put more pressure on their business model.
"If central or state governments enter the broadcasting sector, they would push for carriage of their channels on the private distribution network platforms without necessary obeying the business practice. Already half-dozen government channels have to be carried on private network by law including many Doordarshan channels and the channels on Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha," said a top executive in a leading media house.
However, media experts said the move could also open up the satellite-spectrum space, which is facing acute shortage. “Also, there will be demand from religious bodies, political parties, NGOs and others to enter the broadcasting sector, something which is currently not allowed. Is government ready for liberalization of the entire broadcasting space or wants to control it more closely?” said the head of regulatory affairs in a leading media house.