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Broadcasters, DPOs divided on sharing sensitive commercial info
MUMBAI: TV broadcasters have come out unequivocally against sharing sensitive commercial information contained in interconnection agreements between them and distribution platforms operators (DPOs) such as the multi-system operators (MSOs) and direct-to-home (DTH) service providers.
DPOs, on the other hand, are divided on the issue: While some suggest making commercial information available to stakeholders, others favour guarding it from third parties.
Both broadcasters and DPOs have stated that information should not be shared with the public.
Views of broadcasters
Star India batted for business confidentiality, stating that disclosing commercial information could lead to chaos.
The broadcaster also said that competition was intense in cable and satellite TV business and any parting of competitor’s information could help a company improve its own profits manifold.
Sony Pictures Networks India stated that the regulatory framework alone should have commercial information available in the agreement. It also said that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) should study agreements and come out with its own reports. Even if TRAI wanted to reveal confidential information, it should not do so without hearing the broadcasters. The decision to share information should rest with TRAI. The information should be shared only if the seeker satisfied TRAI that the information was important and relevant for it.
IndiaCast Media Distribution pointed out that, in the NSTPL vs Star India/Taj Television case, the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had made it clear that all agreements proposed to be executed between the parties must be based on the principle of (i) parity and non-discrimination, (ii) twin conditions contained in Clause 13.2A.11 of the Interconnect Regulations, including applicability of the same for discounts, and that (iii) all agreements must be based on the RIO, including any negotiated deal.
The company said that the issue under consultation would not assume much importance once all kinds of deals/proposed agreements arise out of the RIOs (reference interconnection offer) as the deal would be based on the details provided under the RIO itself, which would be filed with TRAI in any circumstance.
IndiaCast also said that the objective of non-discrimination could be fulfilled by scrutinising the agreements filed by stakeholders. Furthermore, divulging of commercial understanding between two parties to a third party would be a violation of privacy.
Views of DTH players
Dish TV came out in support of making commercial information accessible to stakeholders. The DTH operator said that the removal of confidentiality conditions would not only bring a level playing field but also help in reducing the litigation since the stakeholders would be fully aware of the commercial terms under which the channels are being offered by the broadcasters.
Videocon d2h submitted that TRAI must share non-commercial information of interconnection agreements with the public while commercial information should be shared with stakeholders. This, it said, would promote growth of the industry and reduce litigations.
Airtel Digital TV contended that the commercial information should be made available only to service providers (broadcasters or DPOs) holding a valid licence. The same could be made available to the service provider concerned upon a specific request and after paying a nominal fee.
The above approach would be fair, non-discriminatory and transparent, as each and every stakeholder in the broadcasting sector would have an equal opportunity to access the required information, it submitted.
Tata Sky submitted that providing commercial information to stakeholders would undermine confidential business interests of parties. It stated that TRAI was in a better position to look into discrepancies. It also said that providing information about wholesale price at which a DPO gets content would not serve any purpose for the general public.
Views of MSOs
Cable TV companies submitted that the models suggested by TRAI in the consultation paper ‘Tariff issues related to TV services’ would reduce the need to register interconnection agreements.
Hathway Cable & Datacom said that commercial information was confidential and that, unless contracting parties waived confidentiality, its open-ended access should not be allowed.
It also noted that there was a need to define a stakeholder. Open-ended disclosure would be an inhibitor rather than a facilitator due to the fear that the information between two parties would be easily accessible.
DEN Networks requested TRAI to wait until digitisation was completed across India and implement such regulations thereafter at an appropriate stage with a new consultation exercise.
IndusInd Media & Communications Ltd (IMCL) submitted that the authority should move ahead on the issue once the new tariff policy was formulated and the full framework was understood. In principle, a policy for the same should be formed under various confidential and nondisclosure clauses, it stated.