Dish TV bemoans govt's neglect of DTH sector

MUMBAI: Dish TV, while lamenting neglect and step-motherly treatment of the whole DTH sector by the government, has exhorted policy-makers to remove various discriminations in the licencing conditions of various distribution platforms as it has resulted in taxing times for DTH operators.

Furthermore, Dish TV has also pointed out that video distribution on OTT platforms should be brought under government regulations, similar to those governing other distribution platforms (DPs) to remove anomalies and creation of a level playing field for every stakeholder.

“The present [regulatory] regime for the licence fee is discriminatory against the DTH operators and is designed to provide the leveraged position to cable operator, HITS, IPTV and MSO, etc in the market place as they are not required to pay any annual licence fee,” Dish TV has said in its submission to regulator TRAI’s consultation paper on issues related to uplink/downlink of TV channels and whether they could be auctioned in a way similar to FM radio licences.

One of the largest satellite TV operators in India has added that because of discriminatory licencing regimes, the additional financial burden in terms of monthly subscription fee is put on a subscriber of DTH service when compared to subscribers of cable TV or HITS services.

“It is a matter of record that in the month of March 2008, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) had taken a decision to fix the [DTH operator’s] licence fee @ 6 per cent of the gross revenue, which had the concurrence of the TRAI also. However, for reasons best known to the government, the decision is yet to be put into effect,” Dish TV has said.

Pointing out that the DTH sector (India has six DTH licencees at present, according to MIB) has played a critical role in making the digitisation dream a success even while providing a world class experience to consumers, Dish TV has urged the government/regulator to “remove anomalies” by creating a level playing field for the DTH operators and rationalising the licence fee.

Dish TV is also hopeful that TRAI’s new tariff structure and inter-connect regulations—which are in suspended animation owing to being legally challenged in Madras and Delhi High Courts by Star TV and Tata Sky and Airtel Digital combine, respectively—would go a long way in easing the pains of DTH ops. “Though the tariff order and the regulation are under challenge, however, it is just a matter of time that when the new regulation will sail through these minor hiccups and become a reality,” it added.

Incidentally, as reported by earlier, MIB is contemplating referring the issue of DTH policy guidelines review to its sister organisation, Ministry of Law, for an opinion.

Meanwhile, Dish TV in its submission to TRAI has made a strong financial case for rationalisation of DTH licencing regime, while highlighting how owners of TV channels continue to play favourites with various DPs, has also urged a regulatory regime for video distributed on OTT platforms.

In a section that dwells on OTT platforms, Dish TV has accused broadcasters or owners of TV channels of circumventing regulatory framework by distributing video on the internet or OTT platforms.

Arguing that by starting OTT platforms broadcasters don’t just remain 'broadcasters', but also become ‘distributors’ of TV channels, Dish TV has said that such an arrangement breaches various existing regulations, including cross-media and cross-services restrictions.

“It is important to note that the content being provided by the broadcasters [on OTT platforms] are free of cost with an intention to create a captive subscriber base and create a monopolistic situation. Because of ‘free of cost’ provision of the content by the broadcasters through OTT services, other distributor[s] of TV channels are heavily prejudiced… threatening the existence of other distribution platforms,” Dish TV has stated, adding such an arrangement could also create a monopoly where the broadcaster, being the distributor, would also control the end mile solution.

It may be pertinent to note here that Dish TV’s sibling Zee group too has an OTT platform whereby it distributes TV programming to subscribers. Zee unveiled on Valentine’s Day a new avatar of its video streaming service called ZEE5.

Though TRAI had initially left video streaming services out of a regulatory framework when it announced guidelines pertaining to Net Neutrality late last year, a section of the media has reported that the regulator is now thinking afresh and could bring in regulations for video content distributed via the internet (read video OTT platforms).

Also Read :

Law ministry likely to give opinion on DTH guidelines review

Broadcasters, DPOs oppose TV channel auction proposal

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