The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommendations for formulating the National Broadcasting Policy are aimed at catapulting India into a global leadership position in broadcasting. Central to TRAI’s proposals is its ambition to promote high-quality content across diverse platforms — television, radio, and OTT services. In an era where digital piracy poses significant challenges, the policy’s focus on robust copyright protection is crucial.

By implementing stringent mechanisms to safeguard intellectual property rights, TRAI aims to ensure that content creators receive fair recognition and compensation for their contributions. This not only fosters a competitive marketplace but also encourages continuous innovation in content creation. While the proposals lay a solid foundation for the sector, TRAI has missed out on certain crucial aspects that remain pivotal for a robust policy framework. The convergence of traditional broadcasting with digital media necessitates a harmonised regulatory framework to ensure fair competition among service providers. Addressing disparities between regulatory regimes governing different media platforms — like traditional broadcasters and digital streaming services — will be essential in fostering an equitable playing field. Though TRAI has hinted at the convergence of regulations between streaming companies and broadcasting firms, it has not provided specific recommendations on achieving this parity.

TRAI has also ignored the long-standing demand from the industry for tariff forbearance, given that the average revenue per user has remained stagnant for nearly five years. Another area of concern is the balance between content regulation and freedom of expression. While TRAI acknowledges the importance of responsible content dissemination, clarity on regulatory guidelines, especially concerning censorship powers being discussed as part of the proposed Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, is crucial. Preserving creative freedom while upholding ethical standards is imperative to avoid any undue censorship that could stifle innovation and diversity of viewpoints.

The paper has also ignored the issue of cross-media ownership. While the regulator has rightfully emphasised revamping audience measurement systems, it overlooks the need to assess the extent of media consolidation. TRAI itself has previously highlighted significant cross-ownership between print and broadcast media. Some companies own content, distribution, and broadcast channels, raising concerns about media pluralism — an essential pillar of a strong democracy. Therefore, a robust policy needs to establish a mechanism to capture this complex ownership landscape and ensure healthy competition within the sector. While the TRAI paper sets a promising trajectory for the country’s broadcasting sector, the Centre should address these gaps as it embarks on the next phase of regulatory reforms to drive growth and innovation. By prioritising inclusivity, fostering creativity, and ensuring regulatory coherence, India can indeed emerge as a global powerhouse in broadcasting.