TRAI Open House: Aggregators given another week to respond

NEW DELHI: Television aggregators were today given a period of one week to give any recommendations they may have on the regulations relating to them issued earlier by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

At an Open House that was well-attended, TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar said any stakeholder wanting to give views in writing may do so within a week.

Around 200 persons representing all stakeholders were present at the meeting, and put forth their views. While a majority said there was need for regulations, many felt that TRAI needed to fine-tune the regulations. MediaPro CEO Arun Kapoor, Dish TV’s Jawahar Goel, legal representatives of Airtel, Reliance, IndiaCast, apart from cable operators such as Vicki Choudhary, Roop Sharma, Money Oberoi were present at the open house.

Khullar had TRAI Advisers N Parameswaran and Wasim Ahmed and other senior officials also present in the house.

According to TRAI spokespersons, the discussions were frank and free and a final view would be taken after written representations are received.

An aggregator attendee at the open house said that it was apparent from Khullar’s body language that he was not too happy with the state of affairs in the aggregation business today.

Says he: “Khullar made three or four very important observations. The first is that aggregated bouquets of channels owned by rival bouquets creates a monopoly situation which is not a healthy one and needs to be addressed. Second: he recognised that the networks like Star, Zee, Sun, Network18 own channels across several corporate entities as licence holders and this needs to be considered. Third: smaller broadcasters and networks could face problems in distribution across the vast Indian cable TV landscape and this also should be borne in mind. Finally, he acknowledged that aggregation can help keep prices in check on account of bulk discounting”

Adds another attendee: “Change is something that Khullar wants to bring in. We expect some change; the clout that aggregators enjoy is not something that the regulator wants to see continuing. He clearly wants aggregators to be brought under control. We are reading the writing on the wall, and we are readying for the change. How we manage this change is something we have to deal with.”

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