DPOs urge TRAI to widen ambit of OTT CP by including video streaming services

MUMBAI: Distribution platform operators (DPOs) like Dish TV India and GTPL Hathway have urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to widen the ambit of the consultation paper about the regulatory framework for over the top (OTT) communication services.

In November 2018, the TRAI had released a consultation paper seeking the views of stakeholders to bring the OTT communication services under the regulatory framework. The objective of the consultation paper is to analyse and discuss the implications of the growth of OTTs, the relationship between OTT players and telecom service providers (TSPs).

In its submission to the TRAI, Dish TV lamented the fact that the authority has chosen to limit the scope of this consultation paper by excluding the video streaming services.

The direct to home (DTH) operator urged the authority to suo moto and without any reference from the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) extend the scope of consultation to inter-alia cover various issues.

It also stated that the present consultation provides the authority an ample opportunity to also include the broadcasting services provided by the OTT players within its ambit.

Dish TV pointed out that the broadcasters, who have obtained the permissions to uplink/downlink channels from the MIB, have started using the internet platform to make their content/channel available. Furthermore, the broadcasters are themselves distributing the same content to the users. Accordingly, the broadcaster is operating as “Broadcaster” as well as “distributor of televisions channels” on the internet platform.

“Now by launching the OTT services the broadcasters /content providers are now able to do everything directly what they were not able to do in the regulatory regime,” Dish TV said in its submission.

In its submission, multi system operator (MSO) GTPL Hathway submitted that the authority should issue a wider consultation paper that includes video streaming services and their impact on the DPOs.

It also stated that the video streaming services do not have to follow the TRAI’s regulatory framework, unlike the broadcasters who have to adhere to the principle of non-discrimination and parity.

GTPL also contended that the availability of broadcast content on OTT platforms for free is creating a non-level playing field. “It is submitted that the authority should urgently look into the matter and ensure that the broadcasters duly comply with their License conditions and also ensure a level playing field for DPOs vis-à-vis OTT platforms,” it stated.

In its brief submission, broadcaster Star India stated that TRAI does not recommend any further regulation than which already exist, nor seek to regulate OTT Communication Services as they are not telecommunication services. OTTs, it added, are not licensees under Section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and hence TRAI does not have the authority under the Act (Telecom Regulatory Authority Act, 1997) to regulate OTTs.

“The consultation paper assumes certain applications of OTTs (‘OTT Communication Services’) as substitutes to TSP services. This assumption appears unfounded and there is no discernible rationale in keeping with any existing legal criteria or technical parameters, such as those outlined in basic competition law on substitutability, for TRAI to have concluded so in the consultation paper,” the broadcaster stated.

Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) agreed with the TRAI decision to demarcate OTT communication services and the OTT video streaming services. The broadcaster submitted that no regulatory intervention is required for OTT service as it could stifle innovation and straitjacket technological innovation and the development of this sunrise sector.

“A policy of forbearance on regulation [as has been the case so far] should be continued in order to avoid hampering growth in the sector,” SPNI stated.

ZEEL has submitted OTT services are poised for growth with constant technological advancements and innovation. It has advocated complete forbearance on any kind of regulatory framework by the authority.

Balaji Telefilms-owned ATLBalaji stated that there is no need for further regulation or licencing of OTT services. The additional compliance will impact the functioning of the OTT services which are already governed existing laws. The OTT platforms also have a self-regulatory mechanism.

Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati stated that OTT providers should adhere to certain basic norms. Any OTT carrying live TV channels should mandatorily carry all the Doordarshan Channels. Similarly, OTT service providers offering News should be registered with the Ministry of I&B.