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TRAI begins consultations on regulating local ground based channels

These channels are operated by cable TV (MSOs and/or LCOs), DTH, IPTV and HITS operators offering movies, music and local news to their subscribers

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | June 24, 2014

traiThe Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a consultation paper on “Regulatory Framework for Platform Services”.  Reference in this regard has been made by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).

As on April 30, 2014, MIB has permitted 795 private satellite TV channels, out of which 393 channels are in the category of ‘News & Current Affairs’, and remaining 402 channels are in the ‘Non-News & Current Affairs’ category.

In addition to the retransmission of permitted TV channels, cable TV (MSOs and/or LCOs), DTH, IPTV and HITS operators also operate their own local ground-based channels which generally provide movies, music related programs, local community based programmes, and local news and current affairs to their own subscribers. These local ground-based channels operated by cable TV operators are presently not subject to any specific guidelines unlike private satellite TV channels which are permitted under the uplinking/downlinking guidelines of MIB.

All TV channel Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs), i.e., cable TV (MSOs in areas covered by DAS and MSOs and/ or LCOs elsewhere), DTH, IPTV and HITS operators, operate certain kind of programming services which are specific to each platform and are not obtained from broadcasters. All such platform specific services being offered by DPOs but not obtained from broadcasters are called Platform Services (PS). DPOs use PS to offer innovative services and product differentiation. It acts as unique selling proposition (USP) for DPOs and also helps them in meeting the specific needs of their subscribers.

Provisioning of such services also results in an additional source of revenue for the DPOs as they earn revenue not only from their subscription but also from the advertisements transmitted along with such PS.

Unlike TV channels broadcast by the authorised broadcasters, PS is largely unregulated at present. There is no requirement for registration of PS channels. Some concerns have been expressed about the programme content on PS, particularly those distributed through cable. Hence, TRAI has proposed to put in place a proper regulatory framework for PS channels being operated by various DPOs. Through this exercise, TRAI has clarified that it intends to address the concerns and protect the interests of all stakeholders adequately.

MIB in its reference dated January 17, 2013 (Annexure I) has expressed concern regarding transmission of local channels over a wide geographical area by sharing the same content with other cable operators on their networks. According to MIB, local channels are de facto operating as State/Regional/National channels, like permitted private satellite TV channels, without obtaining any permission from MIB. Therefore, a proper regulatory framework is required.

In order to reach to an acceptable framework by all the stakeholders, TRAI has asked for the stakeholders’ opinion on the following key issues:

- Definition of Platform Services

- Types of programs that can be carried on PS channels

- Eligibility criteria for registration of PS

- Security clearance of PS channels

- Registration of PS channels

- Penal provisions for non-adherence to terms and conditions of registrations

- Other obligations to be imposed

The authority has invited written comments on the consultations paper from stakeholders by July 14, 2014 and counter comments, if any, by July 21, 2014. Full text of consultation paper is available on TRAI’s website

Tags: TRAI
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