NaMo channel later, govt to seek TRAI views on plugging ‘loopholes’

The dust of the Gujarat Assembly elections may have settled, but a campaign tool which drew much attention — the NaMo Gujarat cable television channel — has set the I & B Ministry thinking. It is set to seek the guidance of broadcast regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to plug "loopholes" in the rules regarding registration of such ground-based television channels.

While ground-based TV channels are common as most local cable operators and multi-system operators run localised channels, the NaMo model was slightly different. It was a network of separate local cable TV channels operating in several cities airing similar content — mostly CM Narendra Modi's speeches and his government's "achievements".

Since it is not a satellite channel, it did not require a licence from the I&B Ministry, although it did need registration under the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.

According to rules, "No cable operator shall carry or include in his cable service any television broadcast or channel which has not been registered by the Central government for being viewed within the territory of India." But the registration process is not specified or elaborated in the rules and consequently no registration of ground-based channels has happened since the act and rules came into existence.

I & B Minister Manish Tewari told The Indian Express,"We are making a reference to TRAI to plug the loophole. The rules are clear. No cable operator can carry any TV broadcast or channel which is not registered." He said the reference was not "NaMo specific" and there were lots of channels taking advantage of this loophole.

The development comes close on the heels of the ministry receiving TRAI's recommendation on central and state governments or entities and firms owned by them owning and operating TV channels and entering the distribution business.

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