Wary of NaMo TV replicas, I&B Ministry seeks guidance from telecom regulator

In a bid to preempt government agencies from replicating the model of NaMo TV in Gujarat to circumvent laws that prevent them from launching their own television channels, the Centre has sought the guidance of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on whether state governments or other government entities can be allowed to own and operate television channels.

A number of state governments, including West Bengal and Punjab, have approached the Information and Broadcasting Ministry seeking permission to set up uplinking facilities to start a satellite television channel. The Ministry of Human Resource Development under Kapil Sibal also wanted to start television channels.

The requests were turned down because a TRAI recommendation of 2008 as well as government's uplinking guidelines state that only a firm registered under the Companies Act can own or operate a TV channel. This stipulation has been interpreted to mean that any government agency cannot run a TV channel.

But the present guidelines have many grey areas including clarity on whether a company in which a government agency has a stake can run a television channel or not.

"The Ministry of I&B has sought the recommendation of TRAI regarding the entry of central/ state governments and their entities into broadcasting sector. The ministry has made this reference recently as the issue of granting permission to the state government or its organs to run cable TV network has been drawing its attention from time to time particularly with reference to the TRAI recommendations restricting such entities to enter into broadcasting and distribution activities," a statement on Tuesday said.

The I&B ministry is also concerned that the state governments might take recourse to the model created by NaMo TV, whose name is widely understood to stand for Narendra Modi but which is neither owned nor operated by the Gujarat government.

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