On 31st October, 2014, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had sought recommendations of the TRAI on the use of DTH by Central and State Governments and guidelines thereon. Several State Governments are operating educational DTH channels as part of the EDUSAT Programme under the Satellite Communication Policy framework of the Department of Space (DoS).
On October 17, 2014 discussions were held in the PMO on the issue of broadcasting education programme on DTH for non-commercial purposes which resulted in this reference from the MIB.
In December 2007 and again in December 2012, the TRAI had recommended against the entry of Central and State Governments in the broadcasting and distribution activities. Dealing with the present reference, TRAI considered the issue in the following manner:-
a) Use of DTH by the Central/State Governments for educational purposes on a non-commercial basis;
b)Whether EDUSAT Programme falls under Broadcasting;
c) Allocation of resources to Central/State Governments
DTH, on non-commercial basis, for educational purposes
TRAI noted that in almost all developed democratic countries, Governments are explicitly debarred under the relevant laws from holding a broadcasting licence or do not do so by tradition or by conviction. A broadcasting system controlled or managed by the State is found to be inconsistent with the basic principles of democracy. Not only does it affect adversely the citizens’ right to free speech but also acts against the principle of level-playing field among the political parties;
In view of the above, the Authority reiterated that broadcasting needs and/or aspirations of the Central and State Governments should be met through Prasar Bharati. Further, as recommended earlier, the arm’s length relationship between Prasar Bharati and the Government needs to be further strengthened.
Considering the above, TRAI has given the following Recommendations/Clarifications
The non-commercial use of DTH, by the Central and State Governments, for educational purposes should be done through the Prasar Bharati route, through suitable agreements between Prasar Bharati and the concerned Central/ State Governments.
ii. Prasar Bharati shall ensure that content dissemination through such non-commercial educational channels comply with the code and conduct of broadcasting established in India such as Programme code, AIR code etc. and the content disseminated through such channels should be such that it can form part of any regular Prasar Bharati channel.
iii. As the transponder capacity is a scarce resource as on date, the allocation of transponder capacity to Central/State Governments for running DTH educational channels on a non-commercial basis should be done in a very careful and judicious manner. It should not lead to a situation where transponder capacity is kept idling on one hand when, on the other hand, Service Providers are kept waiting for the same, thereby adversely impacting the expansion and improvement of quality of their services.
The Authority also reiterated its earlier recommendations of further strengthening the maintenance of an arm’s length relationship between Prasar Bharati and the Government and ensuring functional independence and autonomy of Prasar Bharati.