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Broadcasters and MSOs cannot provide signals without content agreements, proposes TRAI

NEW DELHI: In a bid to avoid price dispute leading to sudden disconnection of signals of television channels and inconvenience to consumers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed that service providers like broadcasters and multi-system operators (MSOs) should not provide signals without entering into interconnect agreements.

What this means is that in the absence of a valid interconnect agreement, broadcasters should not be providing TV channel signals to MSOs. Sans a deal, MSOs should also not be continuing the supply of signals to their linked local cable operators (LCOs).

Proposing to insert the clause in digital addressable system (DAS) regulation, TRAI has stated that broadcasters will have to enter into written interconnect agreements with MSOs for retransmission of the pay channels.  This will be applicable even if the broadcaster charges no subscription fee or the cable operator does not have to pay anything.

The sector regulator has also proposed that broadcasters and MSOs should enter into new interconnect agreements 21 days prior to the date of expiry of the existing agreement. The MSOs will also have to follow this practice with their linked LCOs.

TRAI’s objective is to ensure that consumers are not inconvenienced by the sudden disconnection of signals due to the failure of the service providers to enter into new interconnect agreements.

The authority has proposed that the broadcaster will have to give notice to the MSO to enter into the new agreement 60 days prior to the date of expiry of the existing agreement. MSOs also need to follow a similar practice with their linked LCOs.

In case the service providers fail to enter into a new interconnect agreement, the MSO or the linked LCO will have to inform the consumer about the disconnection of signals 15 days prior to the date of expiry of the agreement.

TRAI noted that the present regulations that provide scope for mutual negotiations even after the expiry of the agreement have been reviewed so that no signal can be provided after the expiry of the interconnect agreement between the service providers.

The authority has observed from details submitted by the service providers that TV channel signals are being provided by several broadcasters to MSOs and by MSOs to LCOs even in the absence of an interconnect agreement in writing.

It has also been observed that the continuation of the retransmission of signals without a valid interconnect agreement, on the pretext of continued mutual negotiations, often results in disputes and sometimes abrupt disconnection affecting the quality of service to the consumers.

Another area of concern brought to the notice of the TRAI is regarding the effective date of applicability of new agreements—whether the new agreement should apply from the date of entering into the new agreement or from the date of expiry of earlier agreement.

TRAI has requested the stakeholders to offer their comments/views latest by 20 November and counter-comments, if any, may be submitted by 27 November.

Also read:

Why TRAI proposes to disallow TV channel signal sharing without interconnect agreements