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New set of proposals on media ownership in the works, says TRAI chief

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which is the regulator for both the telecom and broadcast sectors in the country, is working on a new set of recommendations on ownership, chairman P D Vaghela said on Wednesday.


Speaking at the CII Big Picture Summit in New Delhi, Vaghela said concentration of ownership and the challenge it posed to freedom of expression were concerns it was looking to address through the guidelines.


Incidentally, in April this year, had released a consultation paper to discuss ownership issues within the .


“The concentration of media ownership has been identified with a number of problems. The most significant of these is the threat it poses to freedom of expression and democracy,” Vaghela said.


His statements come as the domestic media sector is seeing a takeover battle between the and promoters of (NDTV). has given its nod to Adani group’s open offer next week for additional shares in after the group unveiled plans in August to acquire a 29.18 per cent stake in the company.


Also, this would be the second time in eight years that would be issuing recommendations on media ownership. The regulator had last issued a set of guidelines on media ownership in 2014, but these were not accepted by the government. Among recommendations made then were curbs on political parties from entering into the broadcasting space. The regulator had also suggested several restrictions on corporate houses investing in the sector.


The chairman also pointed to the challenges faced by the broadcast sector due to the new tariff order 2.0 (NTO 2.0), which has capped pricing of standalone channels from Rs 19 to Rs 12 and also introduced new conditions on bundling and distribution of channels. Implementation of NTO 2.0, which was to be introduced this month, has been deferred to February 2023.


“Our recent consultation on tariff-related issues for channels and bouquets is a result of multiple discussions with each group of stakeholders — broadcasters, multi-systems operators, DTH players and local cable operators. Soon, we expect to issue amendments to the tariff order and interconnection regulations in line with our stated policy of light touch regulation. We expect the industry to respond with tariffs and prices that do not put undue burden on consumers,” Vaghela said.


In addition, the regulator has identified issues pertaining to network capacity fee, multi-TV discounts and distribution of revenue share among various players.


“We are bringing out another consultation paper to take up these issues soon. I am sure that through constant dialogue with all the industry stakeholders, we will find solutions that will stimulate growth in the television broadcast sector,” Vaghela said.

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