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Trai holds back interconnect order

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NEW DELHI: The broadcast and cable regulator, which was slated to issue an order on inter-connect agreements late this week, has held it back owing to various forms of protests against the must-provide clause relating to distribution activities.



A source in the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) admitted today that the regulator, which was supposed to come out with an inter-connect order, has deferred it "owing to feedback from the industry that are being studied now."



While murmurs of criticism have surfaced both from the broadcasting and cable segments of the industry over a suggestion on making available TV channels to all platforms on a non-discriminatory basis, the Trai source also said that vested interests have to be located and neutralized.



It was all started by a cable ops' body, National Cable & Telecom Association (NCTA), when it shot off a letter to Trai on 2 October itself pointing out that a suggestion on "Promotion of Competition in Distribution of TV channels" (clause-6.3) may actually turn tout to be `anti-competitive'

and lead to monopolistic trends.



Quoting from the Trai recommendations that "broadcasters will not be held to be in violation of the must-provide condition if it is ensured that the signals are provided through a particular designated agent/distributor or any other intermediary and not directly," NCTA had contended that a scenario could not be ruled out that Star or Zee Telefilms, for example, provide exclusive signals to their affiliates (like Hathway, Siti Cable and RPG, which is an exclusive distributor of star channels in Kolkata) who could

continue the monopolistic trends.



Star India, meanwhile, is said to have put across its views to Trai on the must-provide clause in an informal manner, holding the position that making available all the content to everybody may not be that good an idea as programming acquisition is costly.



At a recent Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) meeting in Mumbai, too, some broadcasters has expressed their reservation on "must-provide", which may get reflected during a scheduled interaction with the government that IBF is scheduled to have on Monday.



Though this must-provide clause is yet to become a law, it has seen its first defaulter in Indian pubcaster Doordarshan that refused to share two of its channels showing cricket matches with the Zee Group's Dish TV, country's first DTH service.



Asked about this aspect, a senior Trai official wryly said, "Well, the instance has been brought to our notice, but the must-provide clause is yet to become a law."

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