Currently, 350 broadcasters account for 780 channels.
“We want more competition and we wanted to open it up for the public. So far, we have approved the licences of 45 new channels. It’s a mix of both news and non-news channels,” Bimal Julka, secretary in the information and broadcasting ministry, told Business Standard. Earlier this year, the ministry had cancelled 15 licences for non-compliance with norms.
Sources said about 230 new channels were in the fray to start operations in the country, adding currently, their clearances were pending at various stages. The information and broadcasting ministry has written to its home counterpart to raise the tenure of security clearances to channels to 10 years, against the home ministry’s proposal to reduce the time to three years.
Last year, in a bid to discourage non-serious broadcasters from entering the market, the Centre had amended its policy on granting fresh licences by raising the net worth needed for starting channels.
Net worth is the difference between total assets and liabilities and determines the overall financial health of the company.
According to norms, the net worth of a broadcaster for uplinking of non-news and current affairs channels and downlinking of foreign channels stands at Rs 5 crore for the first channel, to be raised by Rs 2.5 crore for every subsequent channel.
The policy also raised the net worth requirement of a company applying for its first news channel licence from Rs 3 crore to Rs 20 crore. Such a company had to raise its net worth by Rs 5 crore for every additional channel. Also, the company would have to start operations within a year of securing a licence. Non-news channels had to sign a performance bank guarantee of Rs 1 crore, while news channels had to sign guarantees of Rs 2 crore.
“Having new channels is extremely important, as with the new cap on advertisements, companies are looking at new avenues to generate more money. There is a lot of potential in the infotainment and education genre and the regional market has great potential. We expect more clearances in the next few months,” said a senior official at an industry body.