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Examining cases of agreements between broadcasters and unregistered MSOs: TRAI’s SK Singhal

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) advisor (B&CS) Sunil Kumar Singhal has said that the authority is examining certain cases where broadcasters have signed agreements with multi-system operators (MSOs) who are not registered with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB).

In the same breath, he also stated that only those MSOs and LCOs are eligible to sign agreements that have valid registrations. He also said that the regulation does not recognise agreements between unregistered entities.

Sunil kumar singhal“If a broadcaster signs agreements with so-called MSOs that are not registered, then that is illegal. We are examining a few cases but I can’t reveal those cases. Only registered MSOs, LCOs and broadcasters can do agreements,” Singhal said.

He also clarified that the distributors appointed by MSOs to deal with LCOs are not allowed to do agreements. “If any MSO does anything wrong, please bring it to our notice with sufficient evidence—that entity will face the consequences,” he asserted.

He said that certain cases have come to TRAI’s notice where LCOs are operating without valid registrations. The authority has forwarded those cases to the MIB.

“We have received letters from the postal department that certain LCOs have not renewed their registrations despite repeated reminders. We have forwarded those cases to the MIB,” he stated.

In case the LCOs are facing problems in renewing registrations with the local postal department, then they should bring it to the notice of the MIB and TRAI. “If registrations are not happening due to a common issue, then LCOs should write to the MIB and give a copy to TRAI. We will take it up with the MIB and the postal department,” Singhal assured.

He also revealed that the authority is working on ways to simplify registrations through online mechanism. “The authority has called a meeting with the MIB and the postal department to see how we can make things simple so that the records are available online,” he stated.

Broaching on the issue of non-signing of agreements between MSOs and LCOs, he said that the MSOs cannot provide signals to LCOs without interconnect agreements. “TRAI is taking all the steps to enforce this particular condition,” he affirmed.

On the issue of downgrading of packages by MSOs, Singhal made it clear that this practice is illegal. “Downgrading of packages is illegal,” Singhal asserted. He also said that the MSOs are mandated to give a 21-day notice to LCOs before switching off signals under the regulations.

MSOs resort to downgrading of packages whenever there is a dispute with broadcasters or when they have to extract dues from LCOs. Downgrading refers to dropping certain channels from the bouquet. The channels are dropped at the discretion of the MSOs.

According to Singhal, issues like downgrading and switch-off without notice cannot occur when there are interconnect agreements in place. “If the interconnect agreement is in place, these things won’t happen, and if it still happens, the LCOs can immediately bring it to our notice. We will act swiftly on those complaints,” Singhal declared.