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MSOs back Trai on inter-connect regulation

MUMBAI: Multi system operators (MSOs) have expressed to the Telcom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) their support to the supply of content on a 'must-provide' and 'non discriminatory' basis, despite the fear of facing competition and a drop in cable TV subscription prices.

But the support comes with a caveat: MSOs have sought an assurance from the cable and broadcast regulator to make provisions that will ensure content is not supplied to those operators who have made commercial defaults. "Commercial precautions should be taken care of. A level playing field also should be ensured," says a senior official in a leading Mumbai-based MSO.

The MSO Alliance, a body of big MSOs including InCablenet, Hathway Cable & Datacom, Siticable, RPG Netcom and Sumangali Cable Vision, presented a joint view on the inter-connect draft regulation to the Trai on 5 November. Trai had recommended that content be provided on all delivery platforms, including cable, direct-to-home (DTH) and headend-in-the-sky (HITS) as 'exclusivity' would lead to 'anti-competition' practices.

"We feel that Trai will eventually be in support of the must-provide clause. So there is no point in opposing this. You have to be competitive. These are economics that can't be stopped," says the source.

According to Trai's draft on inter-connect regulation, broadcasters can't deny content to cable operators on a discriminatory basis. This will bring in new players into the cable TV business, leading to further competition and fragmentation. A result of this, experts say, will be a fall in subscription prices. But, at the same time, existing MSOs feel the 'must-provide' clause will protect them from frequent disputes with broadcasters over blackout of feed.

Meanwhile, the last mile cable operators have written to the broadcast and cable TV regulator to ensure that their interests are protected. Says Cable Operators and Distributors Association president Anil Parab, "Whatever be the final recommendations, Trai shouldn't harm cable operators. We have written to the regulator, stating that our businesses shouldn't come under threat."

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