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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TRAI to examine cross media ownership again

The issue of cross media ownership will be again examined by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) at the instance of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry which has sought an examination of the issue.Sources said that I&B Secretary Uday Kumar Varma has written to new TRAI chairman Rahul Khullar on May 16 in this regard."Major players are looking for expanding their business interests in various segments of print and broadcasting sectors. In this scenario, issue of media ownership and the need for cross media restrictions assumes great significance," Varma wrote in his letter to Khullar.

Sources said that the I&B Ministry has asked TRAI to look into both horizontal and vertical aspects of cross media ownership, and then give its recommendations. In his letter, Varma has written that at present companies have control and ownership across Print, TV and Radio leading to horizontal integration.While at present there is no restriction for a company to have ownership across Radio, TV and Print mediums, but apprehension have been expressed in the past that control of media organisations in a few hands may prevent plurality of news and views, official sources said.

Varma, in his letter, is also learnt to have said that there were other implications related to cross media ownership including ensuring quality services at reasonable prices. The I&B secretary has further asked TRAI to look into the issue of vertical cross ownership where companies owning TV channels were venturing into various distribution platforms like Cable TV distribution, Direct to Home (DTH) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV).The letter also points out that many companies, which own distribution platforms, were entering television businesses.

Sources said that the I&B Ministry felt that there was need to address these issues and measures needed to be put in place to ensure fair growth of the Broadcasting sector. They said that TRAI had earlier in 2009 examined the issue of cross media ownership and based on its recommendations, the government had also sponsored a study through the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI).The ministry has written to TRAI that with the convergence of various technologies in the recent years, the role of different players in Broadcasting needed to be looked at again so that measures allowing fair growth of broadcasting sector can be put in place.Sources said that once TRAI examines all aspects on the issue and releases its recommendations, the government could then release guidelines on media ownership based on the telecom regulator's recommendations.


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