DTH ops against imposition of registration fee on platform services

MUMBAI: Direct to home (DTH) operators have submitted to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that there should not be any registration fee on the platform services offered by them.

In their submission to the TRAI on consultation paper titled ‘Platform Services offered by DTH operators’, the DTH operators have argued that they already pay licence fee, therefore, there is no need to levy additional registration fees on platform services.

DPOs operate certain kind of programming services which are specific to each platform and are not obtained from broadcasters. All these platform-specific services being offered by DPOs but not obtained from broadcasters are referred to as Platform Services (PS).

Dish TV submitted that the validity of the registration of the Platform Services for DTH operators should be linked with the validity of the platform licence. It further stated that there should not be any fee imposed on the DTH operators in respect of the Platform Services.

It also argued that among distribution platform operators (DPOs) only DTH operators are required to pay an entry fee, license fee and also furnish bank guarantee.

“Accordingly, there should not be any requirement of any additional payment by the DTH operators on account of Platform Services. The requirement for payment annual fee can be imposed on the cable platforms who are not required to pay any kind of entry or license fee to the government,” it stated.

Bharti Telemedia submitted that the TRAI should do away with the condition of prescribing any charges for a PS channel.

Tata Sky noted that apart from licence fee, DTH operators are also paying a substantial entry fee, which other competing platforms are not paying.

It also argued that the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) is not incurring any incremental administrative cost. The DTH Operators are already paying Licence Fee on their earnings from Platform Services, it added.

“Therefore, we suggest that TRAI should not recommend that MIB may charge additional money for registering Platform Services. There should not be any Registration Fee and/or Annual Fee for Platform Services.”

The DTH operators requested the authority to make recommendations that are equally applicable to all DPOs instead of just regulating the Platform Services of the DTH Operators.

Tata Sky argued that the platform services are the key differentiator of a DTH operator. These services serve a key role in defining the brand image of the DTH operator. Hence, Platform Services have a unique look and feel and have the operator’s logo and the same cannot be replicated across platforms.

Dish TV submitted that the content of platform services is sourced from independent aggregators or agglomerate in the business and it is not feasible to restrict their deals with producers of the content for a certain platform/operator.

“It is therefore suggested that TRAI may not mandate content/programme exclusivity. However, if such content is curated in house, the DTH operator may be required to maintain the exclusivity of the same for a particular time period,” it stated.

Bharti Telemedia submitted that the exclusivity should not be the defining criteria for a PS channel. The subject matter of exclusivity should be left to be guided by the mutual decision between the DPO and the content provider. The exclusivity of the content has no relevance or value addition for a channel to qualify as a PS channel.

The DTH operators also urged the TRAI to allow them the freedom and flexibility to decide on the number of Platform Service channels they want to carry.

“A combination of linear MIB approved channels and Platform Services is the way forward for DTH Operators to compete with OTT. In fact, DTH Operators are globally permitted to carry additional services without any restriction,” Tata Sky said.

The DTH operators also argued that the placement of platform services should not be placed separately on the EPG. They also contended that the placement is a prerogative of the DTH operator and the same should be kept as is.

“The Platform services are categorised in genres basis content and placed accordingly in the respective genre of EPG and the subscribers find it easier to navigate through genres, hence placing platform services separately will lead to confusion,” Dish TV said.

The DTH operators also pointed out that the TRAI should not recommend any additional requirement of maintaining a written log and/or register for a period of 1 year as the provisions in the DTH license are adequate.

The DTH Services are governed by the DTH license conditions issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). Article 8 of the said license condition obligates the DTH operators to maintain the recoding of the programs carried on the platform for a period of at least 90 days at its own cost.

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