TRAI makes interconnect agreements mandatory between broadcasters & MSOs

NEW DELHI: In view of several multi-system and local cable operators supplying signals even in the absence of an agreement, the Government today said that it was mandatory for the broadcaster of pay channels to enter into written interconnection agreement (ICA) for retransmission of its pay channels irrespective of whether subscription fee is paid by the MSO to the broadcaster.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today released the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) Interconnection (DigitalAddressable Cable Television Systems)(Sixth Amendment) Regulations 2016 in this regard.  
The amendment provides for sufficient time (minimum sixty days) for entering into new interconnection agreement before the expiry of existing ICA between the service providers for retransmission of TV signals.
It was made clear that after this amendment, no scope will be available in the name of mutual negotiations for continuing the provisioning of TV signal after expiry of the existing ICA. 
MSOs have been mandated to inform the consumers in the event of failure to execute new ICA, about date of expiry of its existing ICA and disconnection of TV channels, fifteen days prior to the expiry of existing ICA to enable the consumers to take informed decision in respect of their choice. 
At the outset, TRAI said it was observed from the interconnection details submitted by the service providers that signals of TV channels are being provided by several broadcasters to MSOs and MSOs to LCOs even in the absence of valid ICA in writing. 
It was also observed that continuation of retransmission of signal without valid ICA, on the pretext of continued mutual negotiations, often results in disputes and sometimes abrupt disconnection, which affects the quality of service to the consumers. 
In this regard, the draft sixth amendment was released for consultation on 3 November last and an Open House Discussion (OHD) was held on 11 December. 
The amendment was issued after considering the stakeholder's comments and in-house analysis.
TRAI noted that a few stakeholders expressed their concern, stating that the timeline of 60 days for starting of negotiation will bring practical difficulties and inconvenience at the ground level in view of the large number of service providers across the country. 
This concern has been addressed by adding the word “at least” before 60 days in the amendment thereby they can start negotiations any time prior to 60 days. Moreover, several broadcasters and MSOs do their mutual agreements for all its operating areas or pan-India basis simultaneously. 
A few stakeholders had suggested that similar provision may be made in the regulations for non-DAS areas and also in other platforms such as DTH. In this context it was mentioned that the delay in renewal of ICA is predominantly observed between broadcasters and MSOs in areas where Digital Addressable Cable System has been implemented. 
However, TRAI noted that the stakeholders’ request may be taken up while reviewing interconnection regulations as a whole, in future, when such need arise.
TRAI is already in the process of finalising a model ICA to ensure smooth transition to DAS.

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