The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has made it clear that Central and State government ministries, departments, companies and undertakings should not be allowed to enter into the business of broadcasting or distribution of television channels, the Centre informed the Madras High Court on Thursday.
The submission came when writ petitions filed by the Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation (TNACTVC) Ltd. seeking Digital Addressable System (DAS) licence to it for Chennai Metro and for the other parts of the State came up before Justice S. Rajeswaran.
In the petitions, the TNACTVC General Manager, B. Murugesh, said that after the new government took over in the State in 2011, the corporation was revived.
When applications were invited online from interested local cable operators (LCOs)/multi-system operators (MSOs) to enrol with the company, there was an overwhelming response. On the closing date on August 9, 2011, 35248 LCOs and 2642 MSOs had enrolled themselves for getting signals throughout Tamil Nadu (except Chennai.) The corporation had a subscriber base of around 14.30 lakhs in Chennai Metro and 61.50 lakhs in the other 31 districts of the State. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry issued an MSO licence to the corporation for Chennai for Conditional Access System (CAS) notified areas in April 2008.
The corporation’s services were inaugurated on October 20, 2012. The Centre issued a notification directing that the entire cable television services in the country were to be digitised by December 2014. In the first phase, four metros, including Chennai, is to be digitised. The corporation applied for DAS licence. It also sent reminders. In spite of all efforts and the direction of the High Court’s Madurai Bench to issue DAS licence, the Centre, due to “political interference and for the sake of certain vested interests” had been delaying the licence to the corporation “without valid reasons.”
The Additional Solicitor-General, P. Wilson, submitted that earlier the Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal governments had not been allowed to operate television channels or to do broadcasting like MSOs. The TRAI’s recommendations in 2008 were against Central and State governments and their corporations and undertakings having television channels. When Tamil Nadu sought DAS licence, the Centre taking into consideration the requests made by various States, again requested TRAI to reconsider its decision. In December 2012, the regulatory authority made it very clear that Central and State Government ministries, departments, companies and undertakings should not be allowed to enter into the business of broadcasting or distribution of television channels.
Mr. Wilson said another writ petition on the matter was pending before a Division Bench. the judge ordered that the petitions be tagged along with that petition.