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TRAI issues consultation paper for regulating special channels of platform operators

The Telecom Authority of India on July 2 paper raises nine questions around issues related to PS channels. Stakeholders have time till September 27 to comment

The Telecom Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a consultation paper to solicit comments and views of stakeholders on issues related to platform services (PS) offered by TV distribution platform operators (DPOs) in order to put in place a regulatory framework such channels.

To distinguish themselves from competition, DPOs offer certain services that are specific to each platform and which are not obtained from broadcasters. These services act as a product differentiator for DPOs to attract subscribers and cater to their specific needs.

At present, the PS channels are not regulated under any specific guidelines of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). The platforms operate these channels as per their own understanding of terms and conditions of respective registrations, licences and agreements.

The consultation paper issued on July 2, 2019, raised nine questions related to PS channels. One of the key issues raised by TRAI is about the exclusivity of PS channel content for a particular DPO. Some programmes transmitted by seven existing DPOs through these PS channels are similar to programmes transmitted by regular TV channels.

The issue was raised in its earlier consultation process on Regulatory Framework for Platform Services (Consultation Paper No.07/2014 dated June 23, 2014). The authority in its recommendation paper, dated November 11, 2014, had stated that local news and current affairs bulletins will be permissible as PS, and that even for airing such programmes, DPOs must obtain permission from authorised officers under the Cable TV Act. The programme should adhere to Programme and Advertising Codes prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules 1994. The paper said DTH operators offering PS channels must ensure that the same content is not shared with any other DPO.

The consultation paper also touched upon other issues such as the need to revisit/review the earlier recommendations of the authority (dated November 11, 2014) relating to keeping recordings of all PS channel programmes for a period of 90 days and maintaining a written log/ register of such programmes for a period of one year by the DPO from the date of broadcast and the role of authorised officers and the State/ District Monitoring Committee and MIB as monitoring authorities.

The issues raised in the consultation paper also revolve around the annual/one-time registration fee. The paper highlighted the need to enhance the one-time registration fee to Rs 1 lakh per PS channel from its previous recommendation of Rs 1,000 per PS channel.

The other questions raised in the paper revolve around issues such as how many PS channels can be allowed, what should be the order and if these should be categorised into genres and more. The authorities have given stakeholders time till September 27 to comment.

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