The Union Cabinet approved the “Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Television Channels in India, 2022” (“Guidelines”) on 9th November 2022. The Guidelines have been issued with the intent to liberalise, consolidate and simplify the erstwhile 2011 and 2005 Guidelines on the subject, and inter alia deals with permissions to entities for Uplinking and Downlinking of Television (“TV”) Channels, setting up of Teleports, Teleport Hubs, use of Digital Satellite News Gathering (“DSNG”)/ Satellite News Gathering (“SNG”) Electronic News Gathering (“ENG”) systems, uplinking by Indian News agencies and temporary uplinking of a live event.
- Online Process: Applications under the Guidelines can be made online on Broadcast Seva for setting up a teleport hub, Uplinking and Downlinking of TV channels, use of DSNG, SNG and ENG systems, registration of live events, operating a news agency, etc.
- Setting up of a Teleport/Teleport Hub: Subject to fulfilment of eligibility conditions under the Guidelines, permission for setting up the teleport can be granted for a period of ten years and renewal of such permission can also be granted for 10 years by the MIB. Such permission is subject to payment of fees/royalty, roll out obligations regarding operationalization of the teleport, signing of the ‘Grant of Permission Agreement’ with the MIB, etc.
- Uplinking of TV Channel: Subject to fulfilment of eligibility conditions under the Guidelines, MIB can grant permission for uplinking of TV Channel for period of ten years and renewal of such permission can also be granted for 10 years by the MIB. This permit is subject to conditions such as payment of annual fees, fulfilment of roll out obligations regarding operationalization of the TV channel, compliance with uplinking in the specified frequency band, adherence to the Programme Code & Advertising Code, maintaining record of the content uplinked for a period of 90 days, and, provide monitoring facility for monitoring of programmes or their content by the MIB.
- Downlinking of TV Channel: Subject to fulfilment of eligibility conditions, the MIB can grant permission for downlinking of TV channel for a period of ten years and renewal of such permission can also be granted for 10 years by the MIB. Such permissions are dependent on compliance with the Programme and Advertising Code, Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007, any other Code, standards, guidelines, etc. as prescribed by the MIB, keeping a record of programmes downlinked for a period of 90 days, providing monitoring facility for monitoring of programmes or content by the MIB/any other ministry, etc.
- Live coverage of events: No specific permission is required from the MIB for live telecast by a non-news and current affairs channel. Only prior registration on the broadcast seva portal is required at least 15 days from the first date of the live event. Registration on the broadcast seva portal will allow entities to seek approval/NOC of other concerned authorities for broadcasting the event live.
- Penalties For Violation: In case a channel broadcasts content which is in violation of the Programme Code and Advertising Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995, it shall be liable for penal action. Such penal action can be in the form of an advisory, warning, apology to be rendered by the channel, channel to be off-air for specified number of hours/days, any suspension/revocation of permission. For any other violations of the Guidelines, other than the violations under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995, as referred to above, the MIB shall have to right to seek action as specified under para 25 of the Guidelines.
- Punitive Powers of the Central Government: MIB can suspend the permission of a TV channel for a specified period or cancel the permission given to such a channel on the grounds of public interest or national security. In case a permitted channel/teleport/DSNG/SNG is found to be used for transmitting or uplinking any objectionable unauthorized content, etc. or fails to comply with the directives issued in this regard, the permission granted shall be revoked. Further, the company/LLP may be disqualified to hold any such permission for a period of five years, apart from the punishment under other applicable laws.
- Transfer of Permission of a Television Channel or teleport: The Guidelines allow transfer of TV Channel/Teleport to a company/LLP as permissible under the Companies Act/Limited Liability Act subject to a lock-in period of 1 year from date of operationalization.
- Obligation of public service broadcasting: A company/LLP having permission under these Guidelines for uplinking a channel and its downlinking in India (other than foreign channels only downlinked in India) may undertake public service broadcasting for a minimum period of 30 minutes in a day on themes of national importance and of social relevance (there are 8 themes that have been identified in the Guidelines). The channels can appropriately modulate their content to fulfil the obligation referred above except where it may not be feasible, such as in the case of sports channels, etc.
This revision of the guidelines on the Uplinking/Downlinking of channels/Hubs/Teleports has been carried out after 11 years and was much needed. The Guidelines offer much needed relief in terms of offering permitted entities a simplified compliance regime and also enabling ease of doing business in the sector. For instance, instead of having to seek permissions for broadcast of live events, the Guidelines instead only mandate prior registration of live events with the MIB. Furthermore, as recognised by the Press Release of the Guidelines, LLPs/companies would now be allowed to uplink foreign channels from Indian teleports which would create employment opportunities and make India a Teleport-hub for other countries Additionally, instead of having an omnibus penalty clause, the Guidelines have prescribed penalties based on the severity of violations. Important measures such as a fixed 30-day timeline for grant of permissions and extension of terms of permission to 5 years/10 years is also laudable. The Guidelines have also liberalized the framework for transfer of a teleport/TV channel to a company/LLP subject a 1-year lock in period.
However, the mandate of putting permitted entities under the obligation to broadcast content on themes of national interest and social relevance for 30 minutes appears to be excessive and may impact the commercial interests of permitted entities who pay heavy fees for such permissions. Further, while the Guidelines provide a range of themes for public broadcast, the exact modalities for implementation of this obligation, including time slots of telecast, are not provided in the Guidelines and a specific advisory may be issued by the MIB in this regard. However, it is reasonable to expect that the conceptualisation and creation of such public service broadcasting should be left to the permitted entities.
Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Satellite Television Channels in India, 2022 – https://mib.gov.in/sites/default/files/Guidelines%20for%20Uplinking%20and%20Downhinking%20of%20Satellite%20Television%20Channels%20in%20India%2C%202022.pdf
Press Release on Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Satellite Television Channels in India, 2022 – https://mib.gov.in/sites/default/files/Press%20Release%20on%20%20Uplinking%20and%20Downlinking%20Guidelines%202022_0.pdf
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Uplinking & Downlinking Guidelines, 2022 – https://mib.gov.in/sites/default/files/FAQs%20on%20Uplinking%20and%20Downlinking%20Guidelines%202022.pdf