Trai interconnect order expected today; must provide to stay

NEW DELHI: The private broadcasters' worst fears are about to come true. The broadcast and cable regulator is likely to issue its final interconnect regulations order today. And on the vexed issue relating to making available content to all platforms on a mandatory basis, there will be no concessions to broadcasters opposing this move.

The must provide clause, as laid out in the draft interconnect regulation issued earlier, will stay as it, TRAI chairman Pradip Baijal, speaking this morning at a broadband seminar in the capital, has said.

The must-provide clause or making available channels on a non-discriminatory basis to all platforms has been vehemently opposed by most pay broadcasters like Sony Entertainment TV India, Discovery and Star India. There has even been talk of somebody moving court if Trai insists on the clause as being described in the draft circulated by the Authority. The broadcast industrys understanding is that such a clause leaves no scope for marketing exclusive content.

For example, Sony Entertainment TV India, in its representation made earlier on must-provide, had conveyed to Trai that it would, in effect, be tantamount to copyright infringement if creativity is regulated and denying traditional rights of broadcasters.

Likening its position to a content providers, Trai sources had told that Sony, in its response, has stated that the draft interconnect regulation does nothing to address the last mile problem and also refers to the lack of any regulation to effect the must carry clause. The argument being must-provide would decrease competition.

Why so? According to Sony, content is the main legal differentiator for this business and thats why it has not agreed to be carried by Dish TV, 20 per cent owned by Zee Telefilms, owing to the latters inability to give satisfactory answers to issues like piracy and other commercial concerns.

Sony has also quoted extensively from global norms like Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (the Berne Convention), treaties ratified by India, in support of its claims as to why must-provide should not be enforced.

Well, the regulator has heard out all the divergent viewpoints being expressed and has made its decision. Must provide will stay.

Await a detailed report that follows.

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