Format Rights

This article is written by Tuba Ghayas who is pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws from Lawsikho.


India’s TV industry earned about 788 billion Indian rupees in 2019, a growth of 6.5% with subscriptions and advertising revenues put together. Television will remain the largest earner of advertising revenues even in 2025, approaching INR 570 billion. A large share of this came from subscriptions, with over 500 billion rupees during that year. Although the consumption of online content is on the rise in the country, television remains just as central in Indian households with over 188 million TV households in the country in 2018. In fact, the rate of penetration of paid cable and satellite television was forecasted to amount to over 80 percent of households from 2019 to 2023. The highest amount of investment was made on television, followed by digital, radio, and gaming. The number of channels grew by 33 in 2019, 27 of which were from the non-news category and the total number of television channels reached 918. From this data, you can assess that starting your own TV channel can be a highly profitable business endeavor.

With the emergence of digitization of cable television service in 2012 came the need to amend the Cable TV regulations and thus the Government of India introduced a multi-phase digitization policy. One of the major advantages of the change in TRAI regulations was to break the monopoly of already established channels and pave way for competition in cable television networks. TV signals prior to the change in TRAI regulations were distributed in the country in analog as well as in digital and terrestrial formats. A digital format provides better picture quality & sound and other benefits leading to better quality service. Most cable operators in the country were providing analog TV service while all DTH operators are providing digital TV service. Digitization means that all cable TV households would receive digital TV signals through a Set-Top Box. As part of Digitisation, every cable operator will be legally bound to transmit digital signals, which can be received at the subscriber’s home only through a Set Top Box, often called an STB. 

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For starting the channel and running your channel successfully, you will require a Solid Business plan and have to keep in mind the following; 

  1. Choose a type of television network/ Mode of TV transmission
  2. Eligibility and Government Procedure for starting TV channels
  3. Content development and procurement 
  4. The regulatory framework for TV content – Content Compliances
  5. Content protection
  6. Revenues Generation – from Advertisement, Sponsorships, and Subscriptions 

What are the different types of cable television networks?

Mode of TV transmission is mainly divided into two heads – Conventional and Modern Broadcasting System

(I) Conventional Systems includes old traditional broadcasting modes of transmission. They are as follows;

  1. Analog Terrestrial TV

In this system, the television broadcasting doesn’t involve underground cables or satellite transmission. Some disadvantages of this system are that the clarity of the channel is not very good nor do signals get transmitted to remote village areas. The current televisions available in the market though are capable of receiving these signals. As the name suggests, the information about video and sound gets encoded as Analog signals. These signals consist of frequency and amplitude variations that get modulated into UHF or VHF carrier. The analog television draws the picture many times on display in the PAL system. Afterward, cable television or community antenna television (CATV) started substituting it. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued a notification on 11 November 2011, setting 31 March 2015 as the deadline for a complete shift from analog to digital systems. In December 2011, Parliament passed The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act to digitize the cable television sector by 2014. 

  1. Digital satellite TV

This is the current mandated way of delivering television signals by the TRAI digitization poilcy. In this system, the audience receives the signal through set-top boxes and satellite dishes. It provides an ample of channels, and services. You have to manage Uplink satellite dishes and other broadcasting equipment. In this system, satellites relay the signals with the uplink satellite dishes. These dishes are around 9 to 12 meters in diameter.  For transmitting the uplinked signals, the uplink dish is faced toward the particular satellite. After traveling a major distance, the downlinked satellite signals get weak, but the parabolic dish receives and reflects it to the focal point. A down converting device called LNB (low-noise block) is present at that focal point. It gathers, amplifies and converts the signals in the L-band range. Finally, you are able to see the channel through the set-top box. TV(I) Section in Broadcasting Wing is concerned with grant of licenses for uplinking/downlinking of TV channels, uplinking Hub/Teleport, uplink facility by a News Agency, permission for use of SNG/DSNGs and related regulatory aspects, as per the uplinking/downlinking guidelines, 2011 as amended from time to time. 

  1. Cable TV

Prior digitization policy in India, this was the most prevalent transmission system. Transmission is carried through fixed coaxial cables. The coaxial cable bandwidth is capable of carrying signals for just hundred television channels, thus amplifiers are used to boost signals. It is used to distribute television channels to subscribers from a particular region. It is used for hosting local channels. Their content is usually relevant for people within that region.

(II) Modern systems for broadcasting TV channels have developed over a period of time. They are as follows:

  1. Digital Terrestrial TV

This technology provides a larger number of channels via aerial broadcasts to the traditional antenna rather than cable connection or satellite dish. It can also deliver high definition picture quality in MPEG-4/AVC coded into a 24 Mbit/s transmission channel. 

  1. Video on Demand

In this system, users can watch the video in real time as per their demand through the cable network.  OTT is a subset of the overall VOD category and it is transmitted to the viewer via the internet without requiring users to subscribe to a traditional cable or satellite pay-TV service.

  1. Internet TV Channel

It is a digital distribution of television content over the Internet. In fact, it has also revolutionized the conventional channels by hosting them. It is way better than coaxial cables in terms of signal quality, interference, signal lever, and potential of the transmission. IPTV uses the line which is also usually used by the subscribers to get broadband connectivity to their homes. This is a digital broadcast methodology, and it is an addressable mode using the Internet Protocol.

You can even start a web TV i.e. A normal TV channel hosted on a specific website like WordPress or app transmitting information via the Internet. It doesn’t require big investment. There are several softwares available online for starting a web tv. All you need is a webcam and a decent internet connection for getting things started. You can perform SEO and other forms of digital marketing to make your channel popular.

Eligibility and Government Procedure for starting TV channels

Prior to 2014, the registration of cable television networks was very easy, it was possible for any person or company to establish and operate a television channel. In 2014, The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting implemented stricter guidelines. 

To provide an efficient and transparent regime for the growth and management of the Broadcasting Sector, an online portal “Broadcast Seva” has been developed and launched. The Broadcast Seva portal provides single point facilities to the various stakeholders and applicants for various permissions, registrations, licences etc. issued by MIB for broadcast related activities. (Refer-

According to 2011 Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines, Net-worth Requirement is different in different cases i.e. for uplinking, downlinking, news, non-news etc. The same are given in uplinking and downlinking guidelines available on “”. 

Uplink in simple words mean Upload and downlink means download. In broadcasting terms Uplink means the transmitter on the ground that sends signals up to a communications satellite and Downlink means A transmission path for the communication of signals and data from a communications satellite or other space vehicle to the earth and back.

As per Uplinking guidelines, to start a new Non-news channel or current affairs channel, the net worth of the company has to be INR 5 crore for the first channel. To apply for a new news channel the net worth of the company has to be INR 20 crore for the first channel. 

  • The Satellite TV channels acquires the permit for 10 years from the date of issue of permission.  
  • Permission fees per annum for uplink is Rs.2 Lakh for both News and Non-News current affairs channels. 
  • Registration fee for downlinking of TV Channels being uplinked from Abroad is 10 lakhs
  • Annual permission fee for downlink is Rs.5 Lakh per channel per annum uplinked from India and Rs.15 Lakh per channel per annum uplinked from Abroad.

In March 2020, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting released new draft rules for Uplinking TV channels.

Content Development and Procurement

The cable television network has to decide the Genre of their channel. Some Examples of Genre are Entertainment, Music, News, Sports, Food, Regional language, etc. 

Accordingly, TV Channel companies will have to develop their own Original content for the channel. For creating their own unique content, the channel will have to invest in Studio Setup and Equipment and hire either a professional producer for shooting TV show. Producer will manage the crew required. Initially though Television network owner will have to hire appropriate administration staff, Content/script writers, Producers, Directors Actors and technical production crew that includes camera crew, light crew, and sound crew. After filming and processing the complete show and ensuring it follows the content guidelines laid down below, you can relay it on your channel. There are also entities functioning as Multi System Operators (MSOs) which mainly aggregate the contents from different broadcasters and then provide the signals for the same to last mile cable operators. For that TV channel has to enter into contracts to acquire broadcasting rights from the Producers of already curated content.

Regulatory frameworks of TV Content

The operation of Cable television network is regulated by The Cable television Networks Act, 1995 and Cable television network Rules, 1994. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was established in 1997. The Broadcast wing of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is responsible for the regulation of content telecast on private satellite channels and transmitted/retransmitted through cable network in terms of the abovementioned Act and Rules.

The Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 has prescribed Programme and Advertising Codes for the Cable tv network operators. (Refer –

In Rakul Preet Singh vs. Union of India & ors, the High court reiterated that Media house and television channels should show restraint in their reporting and abide by the provision of the Programmed Code as also the various guidelines, both statutory and self regulatory. 

In Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the Central and state Governments should brodcast on radio and televison and other media paltforms including the official website of the Home Department and police of the states that lynching and mov violence of any kind shall invite serious consequences under the law.  The Ministry had thereby issued the advisory that ‘Mob Violence and lynching is a heinous crime and invites serious consequence nder the law. Mob violence and lynching is a serious criminal offence and invites stringent punishment under the law.

VTV” TV channel telecasted a news Viral Truth programme in which a man could be seen brutally beating up children in orphanage alleging taht incident happended in Valsad, Gujarat which was later found to be an incident in Egypt. The Central Government in exercise of its power conferred by Section 20 (2) and (3) in Cable Television networks (Regulation) Act had ordered to prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of ‘VTV’ TV channel for one day on any platfrorm throughout India with effect from 00:01 hrs on 16 December 2017 to 00:01 hrs on 17 December 2017

There are several Organisations which regulate the TV channels content quality. There are also organisations regulating specific types of content.

  1. The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) is a non-profit organisation comprising news and non-news channels members managing about 90% of television viewerships. They have adopted a “Self Regulatory Content Code” and this determines quality of content. (Refer-
  2. For news channels, the governing body is the News Broadcaster Association (NBA), the members of which have to follow “Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards”. (Refer –
  3. IBF has also established BCCC (Broadcast Content Complaint Council)  which receives content related complaints. BCCC has issued several advisories relating to restriction on different type of content. (Refer –
  4. Animal Welfare Board of India – to acquire permissions and non-objection certificate in using animals in TV/Film content.
  5. National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights – providing guidelines for children artist (Refer –

In A. K. Asthna vs. Union of India, the Court ordered committee comprising of representatives of Union of India, Government of NCT of Delhi and NGO working for welfare of children, representatives of media to deliberate upon the guidelines to be formulated to regulate media reporting and disclosure of details relating to children.

  1. Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) for complaints regarding advertisement –

Content Protection

  • What are the IPRs involved in cable television networks

The main Intellectual property rights involved in Television and Media Industry is Copyright followed by Trademark. They are governed by The Copyright Act, 1957 and the Trademarks Act, 1999 respectively.

Copyright is a bundle of rights given by law to creators of original literary, dramatic, artistic, musical work and producers of cinematographic films and sound recordings. All audio-visual content falls under the purview of cinematographic films including TV shows. The term of copyright for literary, dramatic, artistic, musical work is 60 years from the death of the Author of work and in cinematographic films and sound recordings for 60 years following the year when it first published. Only after this term ends and the copyright enters in public domain, people are free to exploit the content any which way.

Trademark on other hand protects the Branding and goodwill of the business i.e. TV network in this case. According to Section 2 (1) (zb) of Trademarks Act, 1999 “trade mark” means a mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others and may include shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours. 

  • How do they work?

Copyright includes right to make copy of the content including a photograph of any image or any part as well as storing of the content in any medium by electronic or other means; to sell or give on commercial rental or offer for sale or rental any copy of the cinematographic film; the right to communicate to the public. Thus it is the exclusive right of the owner of copyright to exploit these rights. The TV channel company has the exclusive right to exploit the original content produced by them. They have the exclusive right to broadcast their original content on their TV channel. They can further choose to license and assign any or all of these rights for commercial gain. By doing so, the TV channel will acquire consideration money as revenue as well as royalty from the licensee/assignee as per the terms of the Contract entered into. 

On registration under Trademarks Act, TV channels brand name and logo are protected under Trademarks Act. Even the names of their TV Shows/programs and its format can be protected under Copyright and Trademarks Act. On registration, the owner of the trademark gets exclusive right to use that trademark for business as well as the right to stop others from using the same or similar trademark.

How can rights associated with operating cable television networks be protected?

If any individual exploits any right mentioned in Section 14 (d) of the Copyrights Act without the permit /license of the owner of copyright, the copyrighted work is infringed. And the owner of copyright has the right to sue and claim damages. 

Sometimes there are dispute with regards to format of show wherein one TV channel copies the format of other. Eg – Quiz based show (like KBC- kaun banega crorepati), Dating Shows (Love School), Survival Shows (like Man vs Wild). 

In its “TV format” judgment, the German Federal Court of Justice defined a TV program format as “the totality of all its characteristic features which are capable of acting as a general mould shaping each single episode and thus enable the audience at the same time to recognize such episodes easily as parts of a series”

The format rights which are copyrightable are only recognized in India mainly when there is breach of confidentiality clause in agreements. There is no statutory remedy to protect show formats.

TV Shows with same, common or similar names like the Registered Trademark of the TV channel if used / launched by another TV channel may impact the reputation of the Brand of TV channel and thereby amount to Trademark infringement. If there is no substantial distinguishing characteristic, it may create confusion in the minds of people and thereby the likelihood of confusion to the average person is an important factor in deciding trademark dispute cases. The aim of the case would be to protect the trademark of the TVchannel who has it registered. Unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on competing or related goods and services also amounts to Trademark infringement.

  • Remedies in case of breach

In both Registered Copyright and Trademark infringement disputes, the owner and exclusive licensee of the IPR can avail both Civil and criminal remedies. 

Civil Remedies

Injunction is a preventive civil remedy wherein by the judicial process, the person who invades or threatens to invade the legal or equitable right of other is refrained and prohibited from continuing or commencing such act of infringement. In order to provide the owner of right an immediate relief and to prevent further damage to business in the course of lengthy full trial of case, the law provides interim relief of Interlocutory injunction to immediately stop the alleged infringement. These injunction continue till the end of the trial / hearing of the case and if the plaintiff succeeds in the trial in proving the infringement of his right, the court grants a permanent/ perpetual injunction to restrain future infringement.  

Mareva Injunction – This is a form of interlocutory injunction wherein the purpose of it is to prevent the defendant from disposing of the assets which maybe required to satisfy the claim of plaintiff. 

Anton Piller Order – In certain case the court of United Kingdom on the application of plaintiff makes ex parte order after a hearing in camera in the absence of the defendant, ordering the defendant to permit the plaintiff and his lawyers to inspect the premises. This order for the very first time was passed in Anton Piller AG V. Manufacturing Processes Ltd., where it acquires the name from. The order allows plaintiff and his lawyer to take possession of infringing copies/stock and relevant documents thus securing the evidence. 

John Doe Order – This order is issued against the unknown persons who have allegedly committed some wrong but their identity is not known to the Plaintiff. Herein, court has the power to injunct such person other than those impleaded in the suit.  

Damages – It is a compensatory remedy for the loss suffered by the plaintiff on account of infringement. It is awarded to restore the plaintiff to his position prior such infringement. 

In Microsoft Corporation vs. K. Mayuri, the court observed that the damages in case of where blatant infringing activities of defendant are found can be awarded under three heads;

  • Compensatory/ Actual damages – equivalent to the loss actually suffered by plaintiff
  • Damages to goodwill and reputation – on account of harming the reputation of plaintiff by unauthorized counterfeiting by the defendant of plaintiffs products.
  • Exemplary/punitive damages –  to create a deterring effect on defendant and all those who indulge in such infringing activity

Account of profits – Herein the infringing party is required to give up all his profits and gains made by selling infringed goods. It involves investigation of actual accounts, not merely notional computation. The account is of net profit after deduction of manufacturing and delivery cost. The plaintiff is entitled to either opt for damages or Account of profits, not both together. 

In Mohan Lal Gupta vs The Board of School Education, Haryana, the defendant was ordered to pay 20% of the profits to the plaintiff as the matter copied was less than one-tenth of the book.

Criminal Remedies

Under the Copyright Act, 1957 and Trademarks Act, 1999 the following are the basic remedies which are provided for infringement:

  • Imprisonment not less than 6 months which may extend to 3 years
  • Fine which may not be less than 50,000 but, may extend up to 2,00,000
  • Enhanced penalty on second or subsequent conviction.
  • Search and seizure of infringing goods
  • Forfeiture / Delivery of infringing goods to the registered right owner.

Revenue Generation

The main revenue source for any television channel is Advertisements. The television channel owners will be able to sell slots to advertisers, and earn revenue. Another source of income is by broadcasting sponsored programs. One or more brands may be sponsoring the show. With advent of the DTH connections and TRAI multi-phasic digitisation policy implemented, the channels have acquired another revenue source. The television channels can now sell the programs to the DTH operators.


Though starting your own channel may seem like a complex task, with proper business planning and dedicated technical and legal team, one can start a successful cable network.


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