As the government's digitisation drive enters its second phase, the Information and Broadcasting ministry has asked telecom regulator TRAI to come up with measures to check prevalence of monopolies in the cable TV sector.
"I have requested the ministry to make a reference to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as to how do we ensure that monopolies do not continue to subsist in the market because monopolies are the anti-thesis of choice," Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said.
"I have requested the ministry to make a reference to the TRAI specifically as to how we can deal with this issue as we go forth into digitisation between now and 2014," he told reporters.
He was asked whether he had taken the step keeping in mind the domination by certain players in the Multi System Organisations (MSOs) category in states like Punjab.
"Essentially this is not about Punjab or about any state. I think the issue is very germane. When you are trying to create a transparent architecture which empowers the consumer, I think in the process of empowerment, it is also essential that they need to have a wider choice in terms of operators that they could choose from," he said.
"There are similar provisions with regard to sectoral caps in telecom, even when we do the radio auction, we mandate such cap," he added.
The minister said that he had asked TRAI to look into monopolies whether they existed at a local, state, or regional level and also into other related gamut of issues.
Asked if he was in favour of bringing news broadcasters under the ambit of the Press Council, he said the government favoured self-regulation.
"The entire effort is to try and find a golden mean between article 19, the caveat to article 19 and how the entire process will work. If at all there is extreme aberration of some extreme provocation, the inherent powers that the government has as a licensor, those powers the government always retains," Tewari said.
"But on balance we would like to lean on the side of self regulation and if at all the stakeholders do desire that we play some role in strengthening those self regulatory mechanisms then we are prepared to look at it with an open mind," Tewari said.
He also noted that the Press Council had been formed much earlier through an act of Parliament but the broadcast sector had grown only after the sector was liberalised in 1991.
"Therefore, I think it would not be appropriate to extrapolate a mechanism which was there in existence earlier to a sector which has been opened up later," he said on the issue of inclusion of electronic media under the Press Council.
Tewari said cooperation of state governments was crucial for the second phase of digitisation. The I&B minister also said that digitisation process would benefit consumers in terms of picture quality, choice and value added services.
He said that in the four metros, 96 per cent digitisation had been achieved and the figure was 97 per cent if DTH households are counted.
I&B secretary Uday Kumar Varma, who was also present, said that in the second phase, the government was trying to find a way to encourage indigenous producers of Set Top Boxes (STBs).
He said the I&B ministry had approached the Medium Small and Micro Enterprises (MSME) ministry in this regard.