Digitisation: MSOs can't enter into fixed fee deals with broadcasters

MUMBAI: Multi-system operators (MSOs) had planned to enter into fixed fee deals with broadcasters to keep their content costs under control in the cable digitisation era. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has, however, disallowed tbis in its tariff order for digital addressable cable, while DTH can do volume deals with broadcasters till Trai comes out with regulations for them.

"No service provider shall demand from any other service provider a minimum guaranteed amount as subscription fee for the channels provided by such service provider," the Telecommunication (Broadcasting And Cable Services) Interconnection (Digital Addressable Cable Television Systems) Regulations 2012 states.

MSOs will have to hand over a copy of the signed interconnection agreement within a period of 15 days from the date of execution of the pact.

The status of any channel declared free-to-air (FTA) or pay cannot be changed for at least one year and the broadcaster will have to inform Trai before making such conversion. A month?s notice will have to be given before such conversion in two local newspapers, out of which one shall be published in the newspaper of the regional language of the area in which such conversion takes place.

Packaging and payment terms to broadcasters

The MSO is free to decide the packaging of the channels offered to the subscribers from the bouquet of channels provided to it by the broadcaster. However, the payment to the broadcaster for such bouquet shall be calculated on the basis of the subscriber base for that channel of the bouquet which has highest subscriber base in case the MSO does not offer to a subscriber the entire bouquet of channels provided to it by the broadcaster.

Every service provider shall enter into a new agreement before the expiry of the existing agreement. In case this does not happen before the expiry of the agreement, the provisions of the existing agreement will continue to apply till the new agreement or for the next three months from the date of expiry of existing agreement, whichever is earlier. If the service providers are able to enter into an agreement before the expiry of the three months, the new agreement shall apply from the date of expiry of earlier agreement:

In case of failure to enter into fresh agreement, the service provider may be entitled to disconnect the signals of TV channels by giving three weeks notice published in two local newspapers, out of which one shall be published in the newspaper of the regional language of the area for which the said agreement is applicable. No MSO will make available signals of TV channels to any linked local cable operator without entering into a written interconnection agreement.

However, this will not apply in case of any legal proceedings or in compliance with any order or direction or judgment of any court or tribunal.

Trai to receive all interconnect agreements

Every MSO will submit to the sector regulator information, in the specified proforma, on all interconnect agreements with the broadcaster and local cable operators. They will also have to inform about subsequent modifications that are made from time to time.

Every existing MSO shall submit to the Authority by 31 July 2012 all interconnect agreements entered into by it and amendments made therein prior to the date of notification of these regulations. Every MSO commencing its services after the notifications of the Regulations will submit to Authority its interconnection agreement within 30 days of entering into the agreement or 31st July 2012 whichever is later.

Every broadcaster will also furnish details of carriage fee paid by him to the MSO along with the information furnished by him under the Register of Interconnect Agreements (Broadcasting and Cable Services) Regulation 2004 as amended from time to time. Such information henceforth shall also include details of carriage fee paid to the MSO by the broadcaster.

Intervention by the authority

Trai may intervene in order to protect the interest of the consumer or service provider or to promote and ensure orderly growth of the broadcasting and cable sector. It shall monitor and ensure compliance of these regulations, by order or direction, and intervene, from time to time.

Disconnection of signals

No broadcaster, MSO or cable operator can disconnect the signals of a TV channel without giving three weeks notice and clearly specifying the reasons for the proposed disconnection.

Furthermore, the Telecommunication (Broadcasting And Cable Services) Interconnection (Digital Addressable Cable Television Systems) Regulations 2012 says every notice of disconnection of signals of TV channel or re-transmission of TV channel will have to be published in two leading local newspapers of the State in which the service provider is providing the services, out of which one notice shall be published in the newspaper in local language.

The period of three weeks will start from the date of publication of the notice in newspapers or the date of service of the notice on service provider, whichever is later. In case the notices are published in newspaper on different dates, the period of three weeks shall be counted from the later of the two dates.

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