The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday proposed a converged regulator for information and communications technology (ICT) and broadcast sectors and hence, integrated regulation for both, a move that has been opposed by the broadcast sector so far.

In its recommendations for the formulation of National Telecom Policy 2018 released on Friday, TRAI said that there should be an integrated regulation of ICT and broadcasting sector and that TRAI itself should be restructured as a converged regulator for both.

While information and broadcasting ministry is the nodal ministry for policy decisions, licensing and content regulation for the broadcast sector, TRAI has powers to regulate tariff, interconnection and quality of services in the sector.

In the recommendations, TRAI proposed that delivery of broadcast services should be allowed using converged wireline and wireless networks, and cable TV networks should also be upgraded for delivery of converged broadcast and broadband services.

A review of satellite communication policy (keeping in view the international developments) has also been suggested.

TRAI’S recommendations come a few days after the issue was debated at two open house discussions on 17 January and 24 January (in New Delhi and Bengaluru) on a consultation paper on the National Telecom Policy, released by the regulator earlier in January.

In the comments submitted to the regulator, television broadcasters and broadcasting associations had opposed the proposal of converging regulation and regulator for both the sectors. “With a converged regulator for ICT and broadcasting there is always the risk of false equivalence being drawn between the two sectors… Telecommunication principles should never be applied when issues related to content are being determined,” Star India had said, in its comments.

The broadcasters had also highlighted the recent 44th report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on information technology, which had asked the government to evaluate the need for a separate regulator for broadcast sector and, till that happens, to take steps to empower TRAI “for effective enforcement of its regulations by the authority”.

“By trying to bring in the convergence issue, whereby broadcasting and telecom are treated under the same umbrella in a converged manner, TRAI would be acting contrary to the decision of the Parliament because if telecom and broadcasting are converged there would be no need for a separate regulator as recommended by the committee,” Zee had said, in its comments. – Live Mint