Registered cable ops can offer IPTV service; content issues under I&B: Trai

NEW DELHI: Broadcast regulator Trai, in its recommendations on IPTV, says registered cable operators, UASL (Unified Access Service Licence) or CMTS (cable modem termination systems) licensees, and ISPs with Rs 1 billion net worth, do not need a fresh license to offer the service.

Additionally, only those TV channels - that includes news and current affairs ones - approved by the I&B ministry can be shown on the platform.


During the Open House consultative meeting on IPTV at Trai, multi-system operators (MSOs) had strongly objected to the suggestion that they and LCOs (local cable operators) would need separate licenses for providing IPTV services. Trai now recommends that no LCO registered under the Cable Act of 1995 needs a fresh license.

Trai has stressed that IPTV operators shall transmit only such channels, in an unchanged manner, for which broadcasters have received up-linking/down-linking permission from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Trai has also recommended that the uplinking / downlinking guidelines need to be amended to make it possible for broadcasters to provide feed across all platforms, cable, DTH, HITS and IPTV.


Trai has explained that since IPTV is not a cable service, under the provisions of the existing laws and guidelines, they cannot receive TV broadcast signals. Hence the need to amend the downlinking guidelines, particularly clause 5.6.

"Once this is done, then the IPTV service providers would be entitled to receive content from broadcasters on a ‘non-discriminatory‘ basis," Trai has recommended.

However, these recommendations are yet to be sent to the government.

Considering importance of the subject, these draft recommendations are being put on Trai website inviting further comments from stakeholders.

"Thereafter, the Authority will issue the final recommendations to the Government on the subject," Trai says.

MSOs and LCOs have expressed relief that they need no new license to run IPTV operations. Also, there is no ‘net worth‘ conditionality on them, as is in the case of ISPs.

But the cable TV fraternity has raised certain reservations on the content responsibility.

"This clearly discriminates against the LCOs, because vide the Cable Act of 1995, it is the LCOs and MSOs who will be responsible if there is a violation," said a top LCO.

Trai has recommended that IPTV operators can stream only those channels that have downlinking clearance from the ministry of I&B. The broadcasters, and not the IPTV operators, will be responsible if there is a violation of the guidelines on programming and advertising.

Mohan said that on a preliminary reading of the recommendations, it also seems unclear how tariff will be regulated in Cas (conditional access system) areas, as there is a price ceiling of Rs 5 on each pay channel. So it remains to be seen how Trai evolves a price mechanism to handle this issue, he adds.

The set-top box (STB) also forms part of Trai‘s recommendation. Trai has requested the Bureau of Indian Standards to look into it and expedite standardisation of IPTV STB specifications to help cable operators while designing their IPTV networks.

In case of telecom operators running IPTV service and streaming content other than TV channels from broadcasters, they shall be responsible for observing programme code and advertisement code.

The programme code and advertisement code shall be the same as provided in Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act 1995 and Rules under it.

I&B Ministry and IT ministry are monitoring the contents relating to their jurisdiction. It would, therefore, be appropriate that respective ministries regulate the content provided by IPTV service providers. Operational procedures like time to keep a copy of the contents shown on IPTV, monitoring requirements etc can be worked out by DOT based on the feedback from respective ministries.

Any violation of prevailing Acts/ Rules/ guidelines relating to content by telecom service providers in provisioning of IPTV service shall be reported to DoT by respective ministries.

The decision of the respective ministries regarding violation of the law / direction / guidelines in respect to content shall be final, Trai says.

"DoT may perhaps seek the guidance of the respective ministries to ascertain the penalties for the breach to maintain uniformity and shall initiate suitable action for imposing penalties for violations in time bound manner" it has said.

Tra has suggested that suitable modifications may be made in respective licenses of Telecom service providers to incorporate above provisions.

The up linking / down linking guidelines should be amended to enable the broadcasters to provide signals to all distributors of TV channels such as cable operators, multisystem operators, DTH operators, HITS operators, IPTV service providers.

Trai says that this is necessary as IPTV is not technically a cable operation. It is, thus, not entitled to receive broadcast content unless section 5.6 of the downlinking guidelines are amended.


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