TRAI publishes consultation paper on platform service of DPOs

MIB sent back references on earlier recommendations.

KOLKATA: Along with re-transmitting TV channels, the distribution platform operators (DPOs) provide certain programming services which are specific to their platforms. While the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been working around the regulatory framework for those platform services for some time now, the authority has again issued a consultation paper after the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) sent back references on earlier recommendations.

MIB has referred back TRAI's recommendations on the framework published on 19 November 2014, and 13 November 2019 in its letter dated 23 November. The first set of recommendations have been accepted, except recommendation no.8 after consideration by inter-ministerial committee (IMC). However, certain addendums have been approved with modification.

MIB had mentioned that some of the recommendations made by TRAI in 2019 regarding platform services (PS) offered by DTH operators, could be adopted with respect to MSOs/LCOs as well to have uniformity of guidelines in both segments. TRAI had agreed to the view.

“Any person/ entity desirous of providing PS, or is already providing such services, must be incorporated as a company under the Indian Companies Act, 2013 and the rules framed thereunder,” TRAI had recommended earlier but that has not been accepted by IMC in the case of MSOs/LCOs.

The committee is of the view that most of the MSOs/LCOs operated in small areas are either proprietorship or partnership firms which are not registered as companies. Making it obligatory for  MSOs/LCOs to convert into companies may not be in line with the promotion of ease of doing business. The IMC decided that anybody registered as a DPO, either with MIB or with post office, shall be eligible to carry PS channels.

“In case MIB considers that there is no necessity to register as company for MSOs desirous to register their platform service, it should satisfy itself regarding the transparency of ownership and assurance of content of such platform services at the time of registration. MIB may ensure that registration of platform service channel may be made in such a way that the individuals provide full disclosure,” TRAI stated.

Earlier, the regulatory body had recommended that a maximum number of five PS channels may be offered by the cable operators in non-DAS areas. In DAS areas and for all other platforms, a maximum of 15 PS channels may be offered by the DPOs.

“With the completion of digitisation process, there is no distinction between DAS and non-DAS area. Further, it is noted while it is necessary to restrict capacity of PS channels carried by DPOs as recommended by TRAI, it is not in the interest of the evolving and dynamic market like cable TV to restrict the number of PS channels. Regulation may only intervene to the point of upholding customer interests, ethical business practices, ease of doing business and safeguard against violation of programming code and advertisement code. Taking note of this, it is recommended that the MSOs may be permitted to operate to a maximum of five per cent and LCOs to a maximum of one per cent, of the total permitted satellite channel being carried by them as permitted PS channels without any upper limit,” MIB said.

The TRAI is of the view that the liberal regulatory framework of PS should not encourage the bypassing of the traditional broadcast routes. It further stated that it was not desirable to separately specify the limit on the number of PS channels that may be offered by the MSOs and LCOs. This may be left to the mutual arrangement among MSOs and LCOs. An MSO may remain responsible for all the platform service channels being offered on its platform.

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