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Broadcasters, DPOs to crack down on piracy, analogue transmission

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NEW DELHI: There is general agreement among broadcasters and delivery platform operators including direct to home (DTH) as well as digital cable operators that a joint industry task force should be set up to check and report cases of piracy in the third and fourth phases of digital addressable system (DAS).

There was general consensus that certain states – particularly Andhra Pradesh and Telengana – had high levels of pirated material on local television channels.

Such were the thorny issues being discussed in a meeting held between the All India Digital Cable Operators Federation and the DTH Operators with the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) on Wednesday.

As senior AIDCF member Ashok Mansukhani said that it was more appropriate for the stakeholders to meet in this manner than in courts of law.

Among others, the meeting was addressed by IBF President Punit Goenka, Jawahar Goel of Dish TV, AIDCF President Rajan Gupta and senior office-bearer S N Sharma.

Goel said there was an attempt by Punjab and other states to bring back what he termed as the ‘inspector raj’ by imposition of local taxes. Furthermore, he said broadcasters were free to give content to OTT or YouTube, but this should not be live as it would directly hit the DPOs like the DTH players and digital cable operators.

The larger multi-system operators (MSO) said the inefficient handling of piracy by broadcasters was the cause of their suffering. Broadcasters neglect to take actiom against operators carrying analogue signal. There are small MSOs who do not have CAS & SMS system and do not follow TRAI QoS guidelines so broadcasters should refrain from giving content to them. Hence a joint industry task force should be made to raid such operators / MSOs and initiate legal action against those operators. The News Broadcasters Association should also be made part of this.

Issues were also raised relating to OTT, Doordarshan’s FreeDish, and Reliance Jio and the DPOs alleged that providing signals to these entities led to huge losses to the digital cable and DPOs.

Answering various question in a presentation, Goenka said OTT rights and digital cable rights were two different issues and should not be confused. OTT was an interactive and on-demand platform and in any case was never free being part of a subscription bandwidth. Thus this should not be compared with other platforms.

YouTube content are only the ones that have already been broadcast and therefore, there was no conflict of interest. He denied any concessions to Reliance Jio and said it was in fact paying more than digital cable.

He expressed concern by the Jio announcement that its mobile phone could receive the signals of not only new LCD/LED television sets but also the old sets. AIDCF said that this would bring Jio under TRAI's regulations.

Goenka said he will advise IBF members to take up the issue with OTT providers, especially Reliance Jio. In any case, he said the present contracts forbid such activity.

He said broadcasters are not offering OTT content on television screen by connecting Reliance Jio phone through a cable and they prohibit such an activity. But agreeing with the concern of the AIDCF, he said this would be rigorously monitored and action will be taken in case there is any violation.

Referring to the AIDCF charge that pay channels were being given as Free to Air (FTA) to Doordarshan’s FreeDish after paying huge carriage fees, Goenka said that broadcasters like Star and Sony are offering paid live content free on Freedish but with a time lag of one year. He agreed that this should be implemented across all genres and it should be completely free to all platforms.

He said that in any case digital cable had more channels than FreeDish which primarily comprised FTA channels and so it was unreasonable to compare the two especially as the content was also being provided to digital cable operators.

The speakers from AIDCF said MSOs have invested around Rs 200 billion in digitisation and are yet to get the return on their investment. This is primarily on account of the growth in rates that the broadcasters demand every year. Hence it was now the question of viability and survival of the MSOs that broadcasters should come out with their MRP based pricing.

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