MSOs demand new electronic media regulatory authority

NEW DELHI: Proposing that any new TV channel seeking to beam into India ought to be mandated through a set-top box in a digital mode, multi-system operators (MSOs) have petitioned the government that a new electronic media regulatory authority should be set up or sector regulator's powers enhanced.


MSO Alliance, a body of some of the biggest MSOs in the country, has also said that conditional access system (CAS) is required to be mandated for the whole country "on a progressive" basis with 12 months set as a time-bound implementation framework and "immediate rollout in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata on a full-city basis."

The stand of the MSOs is in contrast to the demand by a section of the industry that CAS should be implemented on a voluntary basis.

Making a case for compulsory licensing of all content providers/broadcasters/cable operators, in a submission to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), mandated to regulate the broadcast and cable sectors too, the MSO Alliance has further submitted that a clause on non- discrimination on content should be made compulsory on broadcasters/content providers.

In effect, this would means that all broadcasters/content providers would have to compulsorily provide their products to all platforms; even if that means supplying TV channels to a rival-promoted platform. Under this demand, for example, Star India would have to provide all its channels to the country's first KU-band DTH service, Dish TV, which is promoted by rival Subhash Chandra's companies (something that has been resisted till now). Vice versa would also hold true.

In another interesting observation, the MSOs have pitched for Trai being the intermediary when commercial agreements between the cable and broadcast industry are signed. Tariff rates/ revenue sharing mechanisms amongst broadcasters, MSOs and local cable ops ought to be "regulated by Trai on an equitable commercial principles for the initial period of at least 12 months," the Alliance has stated.

At the moment, as per a Trai order, not only commercial agreements are referred to the regulator, but the broadcasters also have to submit their accounts of profit and loss to Trai.

According to the MSO Alliance, a la-carte choice of pay channels is to be made available to customers as it is the essence of CAS, though "broadcasters may offer better prices in bouquet form."

MSO Alliance is a body comprising Rajan Raheja controlled Hathway Datacom, Hindujas-controlled IndusInd Media (INCablenet), Sun group's parent company Sumangali (SCV), RPG Network, Trinity Platco and Zee Telefilms cable subsidiary Siti Cable.

The Alliance presentation to Trai, made earlier this month, also enlists the following initiatives that should be undertaken by Trai in the run-up to CAS implementation:

Stress advantages of digital transmission, enhanced viewing experience and additional viewing choices including PPV/VOD etc in order to overcome the problem of channel carrying capacity constraints in analogue mode.

Educate consumer groups, public at large and the media about the consumer friendliness and choice of channels through CAS, specially free to air choice not requiring boxes and tailoring of cable price by intelligent choice of packages.

Liaisoning with the state governments and setting up of state-level implementation committees to monitor proper implementation of guidelines issued by Trai. State governments to set up special consumer courts or create ombudsmen to settle consumer issues.

Broadcasters to announce transparent a la carte/bouquet prices.

MSOs to announce affordable schemes; both outright purchase and refundable rental schemes (for STBs ) for consumers, with commercial interoperability mechanism.

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