The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued its recommendations on “Renewal of Multi-System Operators (MSOs) Registration”.

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) had earlier sought the recommendations of TRAI on the issues pertaining to MSO renewal procedure. In this regard, TRAI had issued a consultation paper on “Renewal of MSOs registration” in July 2022 for seeking comments of all the stakeholders. The regulatory body received comments on the consultation paper from 10 stakeholders and no counter comment were received. In this regard, an open house discussion was also held on October 19, 2022, through online mode.

Based on the comments, TRAI has recommended that the renewal of MSO registration should be done for a period of 10 years. At the time of renewal, the processing fee should be kept as Rs 100,000. 

Further, TRAI has recommended that the window for applying for renewal of registrations should open not earlier than seven months from the date of expiry and not later than two months prior to the date of expiry. MIB should maintain the list of MSOs with due date of expiry on its website starting from the latest due date. An automated communication, as a reminder of due date of expiry, should be sent by MIB at least seven months prior to the date of expiry to the respective MSOs. In case, the applicant applies within two months of impending expiry, MIB may decide whether to entertain such application for renewal on consideration of cause of such delayed application. No application for renewal may be entertained by MIB if made on or after the date of expiry of existing registration.

In its recommendations, TRAI suggested that all such registrations, which have either expired or are about to expire within the next eight months from the date of implementation of decision of MIB with respect to renewal of MSOs registration, should be deemed to expire after eight months from the date of implementation of the rules/guidelines for renewal.

Additionally, the authority recommends that a list of all the MSOs whose applications are pending with MIB for renewal should be available on portal in public domain. Also, if an application by an MSO is under consideration (pending for decision), then such MSO should get deemed a provisional extension till a final decision.

TRAI has further recommended that extant guidelines for uplinking and downlinking of television channels be appropriately amended to ensure that broadcasters do not provide signals to such MSOs whose registration has expired. MIB should publish the list of such MSOs, who have not applied for renewal within the prescribed time period with their due date of expiry, on its website. The registration status of such MSO shall be deemed to be cancelled, post the expiry date.

The recommendations state that the application process for renewal shall be made end-to-end online with the facility to upload all the documents in digital mode via a single point facility i.e., Broadcast Seva Portal. All the documents enlisted on the Broadcast Seva Portal which are necessary for registration as an MSO shall also be required for renewal of such registration. While applying for renewal, an MSO should inform the area of operations (state-wise and district-wise within the states). This will enable the licensor/regulator to have exact information on the area of operation of an MSO at the time of renewal. Self-declaration shall be submitted certifying that the concerned MSO is complying with the orders and regulations stipulated by TRAI and that the MSO has got its systems audited as per extant regulations up to the previous year. Every renewal application shall be referred to the authority for confirmation of compliance with extant rules and regulations. The process of seeking confirmation of compliance may be online through the Broadcast Seva portal. TRAI will provide explicit instances of non-compliance, if such is the case, within 15 days of online referral. For the purposes of transparency and clarity, TRAI shall release a detailed circular on its website which shall contain the specifics of the review process and grounds of such review by TRAI. If the authority does not respond within 15 days of such referral, then compliance from the regulator may be considered as deemed confirmation.