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TRAI directs DPOs to remove TV channels from landing page

The regulator, however, gave a breather till next March to stakeholders

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NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday directed all distributors of TV channels and broadcasters to restrain with immediate effect from placing registered television channel, whose TV rating is released by ratings agency, on the landing page or the boot-up screen.

The reason behind this order, according to TRAI, was to protect the interest of service providers and consumers while ensuring “orderly growth of the sector”.

Though the TRAI diktat comes into effect immediately, the regulator has given some breather to stakeholders to become fully compliant by 31 March 2019 by making necessary changes in agreements that may have been already signed. However, distributors and TV channels have been asked to revert to the regulator with updates within seven days.

Landing channel or landing page or landing logical channel number (LCN) refers to the default LCN that is displayed whenever a STB is switched on. TV channel placed on this page is available to all STBs connected to the network of a distributor and is regarded as a prized real estate by DPOs.

During a consultation process on the issue, many broadcasters had admitted that placing a TV channel on the landing page could influence the audience data or TV rating points (TRPs), while MSOs and other distributors had stated there were no such influence on ratings or if any, they were minimal.

TRPs, according to TRAI, indicate the popularity of a programme or a TV channel by providing information about the television watching habit (for example, time spent by a viewer on a particular TV channel) of viewers from different socio-economic backgrounds. In an environment that prevails in India, despite digitisation of TV services, advertisers and corporate media planners still depend on TRPs while budgeting media spend on television.

The issue of landing page had cropped on when some stakeholders cried foul over a year back and the regulator had been forced to issue interim orders, which were challenged at the disputes tribunal TDSAT. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting too had directed BARC India , collators of audience data, to desist from including data from landing page channels for its overall weekly figures.

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