TRAI mulls free access for TV content

MUMBAI:The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is now mulling if it should make it mandatory for broadcasters to have open access of their contents on non-discriminatory basis to all platforms including Cable TV, DTH and Broadband.

In the fresh consultation paper issued by the TRAI today (click here for the full draft), the authority has invited suggestions from stakeholders on whether it should issue regulation on interconnection norms to ensure effective and interconnection between various service providers of Broadcasting and Cable Services. Also, the authority is contemplating if must carry of a channel be made mandatory for all cable TV, DTH and broadband services providers, and if so, the conditions on which it should be enforced.

The paper, released by TRAI, says, "Since competition from different platforms to deliver TV channels would be an important means of achieving the desired objectives, we also need to consider policies that would promote competition within the cable industry." In the last few years, the TRAI paper says, "These monopolies (in the provision of cable service) have become even stronger as vertical integration has taken place through acquisition of MSO/cable operators by upstream operators. The creation of vertical monopolies may result in anticompetitive practices like discrimination in treatment of competitors while carrying signals or providing signals."

"The only DTH and the only HITS operator in the country have not received signals from some of the broadcasters. In the case of HITS the matter is involved in litigation. Carriage of popular channels by operators is essential for competing in the market. As such, success of competition in the distribution chain largely depends on non-discriminatory treatment of carriage of TV channels, and there may be a need to examine the situation of contents/signals of TV channels provided at more favourable terms to affiliates than to competitors. It also raises the regulatory issue of must provide to all seekers of the broadcasting signals," it notes.

TRAI's amendment to the The Register of Interconnect Agreement Regulation 1999 in February 2004 to widen its scope to include broadcasting and cable services in its ambit, now require all agreements between MSOs and broadcasters to be registered with TRAI.

Clause 3(iii) of this amendment requires that 'no service provider shall discriminate between service providers in the matter of levying of charges for interconnection. Provided that a different charge may be levied if justified on the basis of substantial difference in cost incurred for providing that particular interconnection agreement.'

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