The curious case of MIB order on landing channel

A stay on implementation of TRAI's Quality of Service regulation by the Delhi High Court and the question over how BARC will take action complicate the MIB order

BestMediaInfo Bureau
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The curious case of MIB order on landing channel

Does the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s (MIB) order to stop ratings of television channels using the landing page hold any ground in the present circumstances? Is it technically possible now or ever for the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) to detect the violators and implement the MIB order?

After breaking the news on the order yesterday, points out the issues that might pull the MIB intervention back.

TRAI regulation on landing page

When TRAI told that a channel on landing page would be treated as dual LCN, it addressed 'a channel present on its original channel number along with landing channel of DPO/MSO'.

Broadcasters later moved on from this to another technology innovation where the channel remains present at only one location within its genre but it is converted in a landing page by MSO/DPO so that a viewer lands on that particular channel number when he/she switches on the set-top box.

While previous regulations of TRAI currently in effect did not address the issue of landing page, the new ‘Quality of Service’ regulation issued on March 3, 2017, clearly states that the landing page has to be a particular channel with certain content.

The QoS clearly mentions, “Dissemination of information related to TV broadcasting services through dedicated customer care programming service can be an effective communication method. Therefore, the Authority is of the view that DPOs should provide customer care programming service for dissemination of service related information to their subscribers. Further, the Authority is also of the view that if a uniform LCN number (say 999) is assigned by all DPOs for their respective customer care programming service, it would be consumer friendly and help in creating wider publicity to such provision.”

TRAI had earlier told that the QoS regulation would be implemented in six months from its release date.

Also read: When GECs land on the wrong page

Legal hassle

The implementation of the TRAI regulation for ‘Quality of Service’ that addresses the landing page issue was stayed recently by Delhi High Court. Hearing the plea of Tata Sky and Bharti Telemedia questioning the validity of the QoS, the Delhi High Court had said it would wait for the Madras HC verdict in relation to the tariff order dispute before deciding on the petitions. Till that time, the implementation of TRAI tariff order, interconnect regulations and QoS and consumer protection regulations would not be effected.

Now that the basis on which the MIB order was issued does not hold ground because of court intervention, the ministry’s attempt at solving the problem might fall flat.

If we believe the sources close to the authority, TRAI was planning to send show cause notices to the defaulter channels that are running their channel-feed on landing pages. Due to the Delhi High Court stay, there is no valid definition of landing page and no rules to tell right from wrong. Since the recent MIB letter to BARC mentions about stopping data for the defaulter channels as per TRAI guidelines and the fact that technically there is no guideline to follow, the MIB order cannot be implemented.

Also read: Channel on landing page equal to dual LCN, says TRAI

Who will detect defaulters?

BARC has been consistent in its stand that it has no way of knowing which channels are placing the feeds on dual LCNs or on landing page. BARC is highly dependent on instructions from TRAI and MIB, in this matter. It is left to TRAI to detect and warn these channels.

However, it is understood that if TRAI wants to monitor, it can ask BARC India to develop and provide a mechanism for such a detection of whether watermark feeds are going on more than one location, including the landing channel.

While the ministry has finally intervened in the landing page matter and tried to regulate it for the betterment, the problem is that the two government outfits – TRAI and MIB – are never on the same page when it comes to a regulation. It has been long known that most matters take longer than usual to get resolved or addressed because of the tug of war between these two government bodies.

As of the now, the Delhi High Court will hear the case again in December 2017, which means that everything is on hold till then.

BARC TRAI Delhi high court MIB order on landing channel