India’s television journey which started with ‘Doordarshan’ a state owned and radio-controlled television channel has seen drastic changes. As of today Indian television has 876 active private channels among which 350 are news and others are entertainment channels with a huge subscriber base of 200 million.
India’s changing stance towards free speech and business has led to a rapid growth in this industry. In the year 2005 for the first-time, guidelines were issued by the ministry of broadcasting and later in 2011 for regulation and direction for uplinking and downlinking of TV Channels. The Indian government has announced an easing of the requirements for compliance for television networks in an effort to position India as an uplinking centre. First released in 2005, the regulations for uplinking and downlinking television channels were updated in 2011. After an 11-year hiatus, the most recent version was made after taking into consideration technical advancements with advancement in time and technology.
To understand what uplinking and downlinking means, Communication channel used to send electronic signals to a satellite is referred to as an uplink. On the other hand, downlinking refers to the communication path utilized to receive the satellite’s electronic communications. Communication is said to be two-way when an uplink is received by the satellite at the same time a downlink is received by Earth. Upload refers to communication that simply involves an uplink. One-way communication is defined as communication that only occurs downlink. An up-link hub is a requirement for all television channels. The channel authorities won’t be able to broadcast the programmes without it. A broadcaster requires the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s permission to uplink or downlink satellite television networks into India.
According to the Point 2 of Guidelines, any business or LLP interested in establishing a teleport or teleport hub must submit an application through the Broadcast Seva (“Portal”) website. Part I also states the date of commencement of the same (being 9th November 2022)
The Guidelines are designed to address the following concerns:
- Approvals for the uplinking and downlinking of television channels to the firms or Limited Liability Partnerships (“LLP”) formed in India,
- Approvals to set up teleports or teleport hubs,
- Use Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG), Satellite News Gathering (SNG), or Electronic News Gathering (ENG) systems,
- Uplink by Indian news agencies, and
- Temporarily uplink a live event is granted to companies or limited liability partnerships (LLP) established in India.
A corporation or LLP can utilize news collecting tools other than DSNG, such as optic fibre, bag back, mobile, etc. without needing a separate permit in case of emergency if it has no more than two Directors or Partners.
PART II: TELEPORT/ TELEPORT HUB
Point 3 (1) specifies that the businesses must pay the furnishing fee as mentioned in Appendix I. According to Appendix I, the annual uplink permission cost for current affairs stations that are both news and non-news is Rs. 2 Lakh. A 10-lakh registration fee is required to downlink TV channels that are uplinked from abroad. The annual downlink authorization cost is Rs. 5 lakhs for channels uplinked from India and Rs. 15 lakhs for channels uplinked from outside.
Point 3 (2) states that only those businesses, who fall under the criteria mentioned in the Appendix II of the guidelines can apply for a license. Only businesses with a net worth of Rs. 5 crores would be permitted to launch their own television station. The firm must have a net worth of Rs. 20 crore (Appendix II to the Guidelines) in order to run a news channel. Only organizations that meet the conditions will be permitted to submit applications for television channel license.
Point 4 states that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) must send a letter of intent asking the company/LLP to pay the permission fees for the first year, provide a Performance Bank Guarantee (“PBG”) as mentioned in Appendix IV, and leave a security deposit within 30 days of obtaining clearance and authorization from the Ministry of Home Affairs and after concluding that the applicant has satisfied the eligibility requirements outlined in the Guidelines. Point 5 talks about renewal. The permission for renewal would be granted for a period of 10 years. At the time of renewal, Companies/LLPs holding licenses must meet the Guidelines’ net worth criterion
PART III: UPLINKING OF TELEVISION CHANNEL
The permission for Uplinking of a television channel will be granted only to those businesses which fall under the criteria mentioned under Appendix II and those businesses which have paid the fee in accordance with the Appendix I. Point 7 (4) states that the Ministry may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, refuse to grant permission. A channel can now be uplinked by using the facilities of more than one teleport/satellite as opposed to only one teleport/satellite at present. Point 8 states Special conditions for uplinking a satellite TV channel. It says, inter alia, that:
- the uplinking must be done in the Frequency Band specified by the applicant,
- the applicant must adhere to Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995,
- Keeping a record of the past 90 days uplinked content and produce to the MIB as and when required, etc.
Renewal of permission, according to Point 9, must be given for a period of 10 years and the applicant must apply at least 30 days prior to expiry of the license. The application must be done via the Broadcast Seva portal and fee must be paid in accordance with Appendix I.
PART IV: DOWNLINKING OF A SATELLITE TV CHANNEL
A business can apply via the Broadcast Seva portal only if it falls under the criteria mentioned under Appendix II and if it pays the fee required by Appendix I. For downlinking, according to Point 10, the business’s presence must be within India. This does not disqualify the already existing business licenses under the older guidelines of 2005 or 2011 (Point 10 (1) (vii)).
Permission for downlinking shall be granted for a period of 10 years. Point 11 further states that the company must follow the Programme and Advertising Code prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007. Renewal for uplinking shall also be the same as mentioned before and would be for a period of 10 years, according to Point 12.
PART V: NEWS AGENCY
A news agency can now receive approval for a period of five years as opposed to one year before the Guidelines came to force. An application would be granted to only those news agencies which are subject to the following conditions:
(a) The business/LLP employs working journalists who are registered with the Press Information Bureau (PIB) on its behalf;
(b) Foreign Direct Investment in the firm or LLP complies with the Foreign Direct Investment
(c) The control and management of the company/LLP shall be in Indian hands, in accordance with the Government of India’s Direct Investment (FDI) Policy, as updated from time to time by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT)
PART VI: PURCHASE AND HIRING OF DSNG/SNG EQUIPMENT
Only those companies have the permission to purchase and use DSNG/SNG equipment who have the permission to operate a teleport or who have the permission of uplinking a news channel or those who have the permission by the Ministry of a news agency, according to Point 15 of the Guidelines.
The ministry can then, within 15 days, grant the permission, given that the fee has been paid in accordance with Appendix I. Only channel owners permitted by the Ministry and Doordarshan may hire SNG/ DSNG equipment. A non-news or a foreign channel may use the services of a permitted DSNG/SNG equipment for the purposes mentioned in Part VII of the Guidelines.
PART VII: LIVE COVERAGE OF EVENTS
A news channel can use DSNG/SNG equipment to cover the live events. According to Point 18, any non-news channel can also cover live events, with due permission of the MIB. If it uplinks live content without permission, it’ll be liable to penalties. Point 19 states, a foreign channel can be granted a 12-month permission to uplink live events. The applicant must pay a fee of Rs. 1 lakh per day of the live coverage.
PART VIII: CHANGE OF NAME & LOGO/SATELLITE/TELEPORT/OPERATIONAL STATUS
Part VIII states that a company must display its name and logo on the tv channel, as approved by the ministry. The company can apply on the Broadcast Seva portal to change its name or logo. Change of satellite or teleport shall be subjected to the portal on the Department of Space for its processing. The change of language, mode of transmission, etc must be intimidated to the MIB, according to Point 22. If a company remains un-operational for a period of 60 days, it must inform the reasons for the same to the Ministry.
PART IX: PENALTIES
The Guidelines then outline the following sanctions that might be applied to those who violate them:
- A written advise, a written warning
- A scroll of apology,
- A statement of apology read out on the channel by the director or CEO of the entity are all things that must be given to the entity in writing.
- Order the channel to go off the air for a predetermined period of time;
Suspend or cancel authorization.
PART X: MISCELLANEOUS
Miscellaneous things are provided under this Part like changing the category of the channel, appointment of new Chief Executive Officer/Director, Intimation regarding change in shareholding pattern and Foreign Direct Investment, Furnishing of information and documents, Remittance of foreign exchange, Transfer of Permission of a Television Channel, or teleport, etc. must be applied for, through the Broadcast Seva portal, to the MIB.
The new guidelines are much required for the changing markets and business of television around the world. Easement in permission for live programs removes unnecessary hurdles and will benefit easy streaming of content. Uniformity has been brought regarding net worth requirements of channels along with allowing LLP into the business. Teleporting permissions are seen as a revolutionary change as India has the potential to become a Teleporting (uploading) hub for the world.