Telecom regulator's views sought on reining in local cable TV channels

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) The information and broadcasting ministry has sought the telecom regulator's suggestions on regulating the mushrooming number of local cable TV channels.

Taking note of cable operators transmitting local news and current affairs channels at their level, the ministry has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to specify whether a set of rules should be put in place to govern the telecasting of such channels.

The ministry said that under the current digital regime, only digital addressable signals can be carried out on the cable network.

The ministry said that cable TV operators and multi system operators are transmitting local news, videos and other locally developed content as separate television channels in addition to the satellite TV channels obtained from broadcasters.

"These channels, popularly known as local channels, are presently not subject to a regulatory framework unlike private satellite TV channels permitted under the uplinking/downlinking guidelines of the ministry. As a result, local channels continue to mushroom all over the country without having registration/license," it said in a statement.

It also said that since the cable operators geographical reach has not been defined in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, it is possible for Local Cable Operators (LCOs)/Multi System Operators (MSOs) operating at the local level to broadcast local channels over a larger geographical area, including the regional, state and national level by transmitting the same content over their entire network.

The ministry said it had noticed that some cable operators are also transmitting local channels over wider geographical area which includes inter-state and intra state transmission by sharing the same content with others on their network.

"In such a scenario, local channels are basically operating as state/regional/national channels like permitted private satellite TV channels without getting any permission," it said.

It said the idea of allowing cable operators to generate and transmit local programmes was to keep people informed of relevant local issues.

But this intent is not being fulfilled, and the tendency to network content at a larger geographical area has gained strength, the statement said.

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