An Overview of the Telegraph Act and the Wireless Telegraphy Act

    • Broadcasting in India is governed by the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933. The Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 gives the Government of India exclusive rights to the establishment and operation of electromagnetic wave telegraphy.
    • The governance of broadcasting is based on the powers conferred on the Government of India by this law. According to the Law, “telegraph” means any apparatus, instrument, equipment or apparatus used or capable of being used for the transmission or reception of signals, signals, writings, images and sounds or information of any kind by wire, visual or electromagnetic emissions, radio waves or radio waves, galvanic, electric or magnetic means. “Radio wave” or “radio waves” means electromagnetic waves of frequencies below 3000 giga-cycles per second propagated in space without an artificial guide.
    • Judicial decisions have also held that the term “telegraph” includes the term telephone, television , radio, wireless, mobile and video equipment.
    • Section 4 (1) of the Telegraph Act stipulates that the central government has the exclusive privilege of establishing, maintaining and operating telegraphs in India. Section 5 (1) of the Telegraph Act authorizes the central government to temporarily take possession of a telegraph in cases of public emergency or public security. Subsection 5 (2) allows the government to legally intercept telegraphic messages for certain reasons. These include the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order and the prevention of the commission of an offense.
    •  Article 8 of the Telegraph Act gives the Government the power to revoke a telegraphic license for any breach of any term or failure to pay license fees.
    • Broadcasting means “the dissemination of any form of communication as signs, signals, writings, images, images and sounds of all kinds by the transmission of electromagnetic waves through space or by cables intended to be received directly or indirectly by the public support relay stations and all its grammatical variants and related expressions should be interpreted accordingly. To offer most forms of broadcast, a broadcaster must have two licenses:

1.   A general MIB license for telegraph services (under the Telegraph Act), and,

2.   A Wireless Operating License for the Wireless Planning and Communication Unit (WPC) of the Department of Telecommunications (under the Wireless Telegraphy Act).

      • Most radio and television services are also regulated by the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act (No. 17 of 1933) as they constitute “wireless communications”. Subsections 2 (2) and 3 govern wireless communication by requiring users of various types of wireless equipment to obtain wireless licenses to own and use the equipment. These licenses are granted by the WPC (Wireless Planning and Coordination Authority) Wing of the Telecommunications Department (DoT). Therefore, to offer most types of broadcasting services, a broadcasting undertaking must obtain two types of licenses:

1.   A grant of permission (GOPA) to provide broadcast services issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under the Telegraph Act, 1885.

2.   WPC (Wireless Planning and Coordination Authority) WPC wireless operating license under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933.

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