I&B ministry recommends 5% cap on DTH platform services; TRAI stays firm at 3%

The ministry also wants to reduce the limit on number of channels.

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is firm on its position to cap the number of platform services (PS) by DTH platforms to three per cent subject to a maximum of 15 channels. This comes in the wake of the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) recommending a five per cent cap with no channel limits.

The MIB sent a letter to the regulatory body on 13 May approving TRAI’s recommendations on platform services offered by DTH platforms with modifications. The inter-ministerial committee suggested that the cap be increased to five per cent of its total channel carrying capacity without any limit on the maximum number of PS channels. 

TRAI was of the view that since DTH operators have a limited channel carrying capacity and with the availability of a huge number of permitted satellite TV channels (900+) in all regional languages and genres, there is no pressing requirement for a large number of PS channels. Further, DTH operators are primarily carriers of the content produced by broadcasters; not content producers. 

“An upper limit of 15 channels is also important so that even if the channel carrying capacity gets increased in future, it should be given to broadcasters who are waiting for the channel capacity. As broadcasters are not permitted to reach to consumers directly, they are dependent only on the distributors. Allowing more channels as PS will put an artificial restriction on the broadcasters to launch new channels and in turn, they will be discouraged to bring new channels in the sector which will adversely affect the public interest at large,” it added. 

TRAI mentioned that since DTH operators have pan India presence by the virtue of technology
and availability of satellite footprint, they don't have to cater to the requirements of any local audience or a particular demography. PS are generally meant for MSOs to carry some local community interest programme.

With regard to allowing more PS channels to DTH operators, TRAI said that the operators will block a large capacity for their own use which can seriously jeopardise the availability of slots not only for new broadcasters but also for government mandatory channels.

TRAI had also recommended that the programme transmitted by the DTH operator as a platform service shall be exclusive and should not be shared directly or indirectly with any other distribution platform operator (DPO). In case of violation both TRAI or MIB can send notices, but the ministry wants to restrict this power to itself. However, TRAI had said that the MIB reserves the right for cancellation of registration of such PS of the DTH operator.

The authority has reiterated its earlier recommendation for this clause as well citing the need for consistency between the TRAI act and DTH licence requirements.

The industry watchdog also recommended that the DTH operator shall be bound by orders/ directions/regulations issued by it in respect of DTH services including platform services provided by the operator. In response, the committee recommended that the issues pertaining to DTH licences should be regulated by the MIB. However, it may be desirable that DTH operators may also abide by orders/directions/regulations of TRAI issued by TRAI from time to time relating to interconnection agreement/ tariff/quality of service.

To this, TRAI said, “MIB should not put any artificial restriction in the license condition. It is essential that DTH guidelines should have one overarching clause clearly stating that the DTH operator shall be bound by orders/ directions/regulations issued by TRAI in respect of DTH services...It is very important that the DTH license should have an explicit provision that the DTH operator shall be bound by orders/directions/regulations issued by TRAI in respect of DTH services including platform services provided by the operator," it added. The regulator cited several court cases by which it has been given approvals to ensure regulations for the whole DTH sector.

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