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TRAI may bring OTTs carrying TV channels under licensing framework

OTT platforms run by broadcasters will feel the heat.

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MUMBAI: The telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) may soon bring over-the-top (OTT) platforms carrying TV channels under a licensing framework similar to the one for broadcasters. OTT platforms run by broadcasters like Hotstar, Sony LIV, Zee5, Voot will feel the heat if it gets finalised.

After introducing the new tariff order to make the broadcast ecosystem more transparent, the authority now plans to focus on carriage of TV channels via apps that are currently unregulated and, in some cases, offered free.

“Carriage of TV programming has been licensed out to registered broadcasters who are then allowed to give the content to cable operators or satellite players, under a licensing framework. If a third party, like an app, is showing the same channels without paying carriage charges and licence fee, it creates disparity,” said a senior TRAI official, as quoted by the Economic Times.

“Either both should be under the ambit of the licence, or both should be exempted,” the official added. A broadcasting licence is valid for 10 years in India, and the licensee must comply with the programming and advertising code under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

Major broadcasters including Star India, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), Times Network made it clear while submitting their comments on an earlier TRAI consultation paper that they do not favour any further regulatory intervention on over-the-top (OTT) communication services. All three players have clearly depicted their view that OTTs should not be seen as a substitute of TSPs.

Another broadcaster, ZEEL also submitted its response but on behalf of its digital arm ZEE5. The growing online video player had also advocated complete forbearance on any kind of regulatory framework by the authority.

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