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SPNI tells TRAI OTT platforms can't be compared to broadcasting services

SPN has again batted for the policy of forbearance.

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MUMBAI: Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) has again batted for the policy of forbearance for the fullest potential growth of the OTT industry. The broadcaster has also strongly advocated that OTTs providing content/media cannot be brought within the ambit of substitutability with broadcasting service.

SPNI is of the view that since OTT distribution platforms are not granted permission/licence by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), they are not comparable with broadcasters. According to the broadcaster, the licensing/regulatory provision applicable to broadcasters cannot be applied to OTT distribution platforms. It explained that OTT services also do not use spectrum for providing their services but ride on the top of data services provided by licensed telcos unlike broadcasters who require uplink/downlink spectrum for transmission of signals.

The broadcaster made these suggestions as part of its counter comments to a TRAI consultation paper. It has also disagreed with earlier comments of some of the stakeholders that emergency services should be made mandatorily accessible via OTT content service providers. SPNI has explained that OTT content, except for live content, are consumed at consumer’s discretion not on real time basis. Hence, it has noted that display of such communications over OTT content platforms may not reach the consumers on a real-time basis which would defeat the purpose of making emergency communications available on OTT content platforms.

Earlier, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has suggested to the TRAI that certain norms be made mandatory for OTT providers, in order to bring them on a level playing field with TV broadcasters and not just limit their comparison to telecom service providers (TSPs). It also stated that OTT providers should abide by certain rules including one that OTT platforms streaming live TV should mandatorily carry all Doordarshan channels like DTH, MSOs or cable operators do. OTT service providers offering news content should be registered with MIB.

SPNI has clearly disagreed with this view without taking the name of the stakeholder. It also added that the mode of operation, revenue generation and the nature of offerings of OTT service providers are not comparable with that of broadcasters/TSPs. Hence, the same yardsticks cannot be made applicable to two inherently distinct platforms. However, it noted that on the carriage of Doordarshan channels, those that are unencrypted and FTA may be made available at the option of the OTT service providers.

“On the recommendation for audience measurement system to be devised for OTTs carrying live television channels by certain stakeholders, the OTT players already have their internal mechanisms in place for audience measurement systems. This apart there are several private players providing audience measurement services. Hence attempting to mandate one only for those OTT players carrying television content will be a fruitless exercise. The way forward would be to unify the broadcast TV measurement system so that it captures,” it added.

SPNI has also spoken against a claim from one of the stakeholders alleging certain broadcasts on OTT platforms being against national security. It has highlighted that in light of the entire set of regulations governing the OTT platforms coupled with judicial interventions from time to time, there are sufficient checks and balances in place to ensure that content provided on such platforms are not in violation of the law of land.

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