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Zee may move court against Trai's mobile TV regulation

NEW DELHI: Zee Network has written to the Information & Broadcasting ministry, stating that the Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) regulation for mobile TV could land in the courts as it is loaded with several discrepancies and discriminations.













Zee feels that its suggestions on mobile TV should have been considered by Trai, as broadcasters would be facing serious challenges otherwise.

 

Seeing those suggestions dumped completely, Zee has as a last recourse written to the ministry, ahead of what sources indicate would be a court case against the regulation.


Zee has demanded that any broadcasting company should be allowed to provide mobile TV services.


Zee says that cross holding caps are not appropriate in these scenarios, and has warned that the regulation, if left untouched, would lead to engineering monopolistic control by some players.


It says, "It is a recognised fact that today mobile companies have more than 225 million customers between them. They have access to all customer data and are in an advantageous position to provide any form of mobile TV services.


"It includes either 3G-based, terrestrial or satellite mode services. Against this, the broadcasters have heavy odds as they need to target customers on other networks.

 
"Despite this positioning, Trai has gone ahead and permitted the CMTS or UASL companies to also bid for terrestrial or satellite-based services. This can lead to monopolistic policies to the detriment of customers."

Hence, to correct this serious anomaly, Zee recommends that CMTS companies should not be allowed to bid for terrestrial or satellite licences for mobile TV.


"This is to prevent development of complete monopoly on all modes of mobile TV," says the Zee letter, which is signed by senior Zee officials.


Zee also says that the provision for licence fees as recommended by Trai is unworkable, and stresses that the fee should be charged at the rate of four per cent of the gross adjusted revenue.


It has pointed out that Trai itself had earlier recommended this for the DTH services. Thus, the recommendation for mobile TV is not a view consistent with its earlier recommendation; the ministry should have uniform standards for all platforms.


Trai has recommended that the licence fee should be 4 per cent of gross revenues or 10 per cent of the reserve price for auctions for a particular area, and Zee is demanding dropping the second provision (or 10 per cent, whichever is higher).


Zee suggests the ministry refer this to the ministry of finance if the recommendations are to be taken forward in the present form "as large sums of money are involved and a misplaced policy on the lines recommended by the Trai can lead to litigation and a severely distorted operating environment."


On the issues of FDI cap and crossholding restrictions, Zee says that the Trai regulatory recommendations suffer from aberrations.


"For terrestrial broadcasting Trai had recommended 20 per cent FDI in line with DTH and FM radio, while for mobile TV, which has been throughout compared with the FM radio even in the 2008 recommendations, the FDI recommended is 74 per cent," the letter points out.


This suffers a major inconsistency from Trai‘s earlier recommendation that the "ministry should take an integrated view of all media-related services, and the same equity structure should become applicable to the entire sector including terrestrial broadcasting, FM and IPTV."


"Should this be taken to read that the Trai is recommending the enhancement of FDI in DTH and FM radio also to 74 per cent?" the letter asks


Zee argues that since mobile TV is just another delivery platform for the same content, "any company, even with more than 20 per cent holdings by broadcasting company, should be eligible to provide such services.


"It falls in the natural domain of a broadcaster. Hence, if there is a licenced terrestrial TV broadcaster in India, its programmes can be received on mobile handsets as well and it does not need a separate license."


Zee has also written on the other issues such as spectrum, time to market sharing of infrastructure, return path considerations and reference interconnect offer. In all its arguments, it has sought to point out how Trai has gone against its own earlier stands and how the regulation would lead to a biased regime fostering monopoly.

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