Star, SPNI seek cancellation of DPO licence as penalty for non-audit of system

MUMBAI: Broadcasters Star India and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) have recommended that the digital addressable system (DAS) licence of distribution platforms (DPOs) should be cancelled if they fail to conduct system audit at the second instance.

The broadcasters said this in their submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) draft interconnection regulations 2019. Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Star and SPNI have made submissions from the broadcaster side.

The three parties differ on the penalty to be imposed in the first instance of non-audit of system. Star has suggested a penalty of Rs. 5 lakh to be paid to TRAI in case of the first instance of non-compliance. SPNI has submitted that the penalty be as prescribed by the TRAI. While IBF wants immediate action against non-complying DPOs.

The broadcasters have recommended that annual audit as caused by DPO under regulation 15 (1) shall be scheduled in such a manner that there is a gap of at least six months between the Distributor Audit over two consecutive calendar years, and the Distributor audit shall include all the relevant distributor’s group companies, joint ventures, and affiliates.

As per the broadcasters, the wording in the proposed amendment takes care of erroneous situation where DPO causes audits in two consecutive months (December of first calendar year and January of second calendar year).

However, they added that this does not take care of the other undesirous situation where DPO causes audit in January of the first calendar year and then causes next audit in December of second calendar year i.e. there is a gap of 23 months between two consecutive audits. This long gap if allowed is detrimental to the interest of broadcasters for revenue assurance.

For example: First audit January 2020. Second Audit December 2021. Gap = 23 months.

On intimation by the auditor or the broadcaster, the DPO shall ensure that Distributor audit commences within seven days and is completed within 15 days of the audit commencement date.

To ensure transparency and fair audit, the scheduling of audits shall be drawn up by IBF on a monthly basis and informed by notification to DPOs scheduled to be audited in the forthcoming month as posted on IBF and TRAI website 7 days prior to the start of the month, to enable 1/12th of total number of registered DPOs to undertake their Distributor Audit.

Another recommended revision by IBF is that the annual audit caused by distributor shall include the audit to validate compliance with this Schedule and the Subscription Audit.

The broadcasters have also suggested that the empanelled auditor shall have the right to seek/obtain directly any data/information/declaration from CAS / DRM and SMS vendors regarding audit requirements.

Empanelled auditor must also have access to complete and unaltered data & logs of the DPO’s systems in the audits caused either by DPO or by Broadcaster. There should not be any filtering of data by DPO from CAS and SMS server for any reason whatsoever till the Audit report is prepared and released by the Auditor.

The broadcasters have suggested that DPO should implement controls to ensure that Channel name configured in SMS, CAS , nd same channel audio/video to be configured in Mux with unique LCN only.

They further submitted that the distributor of television channels shall ensure that the current version of the CAS, in use, does not have any history of hacking.

“In the event hacking of the CAS system is detected, then the same shall be intimated by CAS vendor to DPO and TRAI, and in-turn by DPO to all relevant broadcasters for impact assessment as well as remedial action with a copy to TRAI. Instance of hacking shall include but not limited to cloning of STBs and/or VCs,” the broadcasters said in their submission.

Another recommended revision suggested by the broadcasters is that the SMS should be capable of generating reports in un-editable format/pdf and in addition, in excel or csv format.

“DPOs provide the monthly subscriber report inter-alia for each bouquet/package, however, they do not maintain the alteration logs for the same, in absence of such alteration logs auditors will not be able to ascertain the actual subscriber count before such modification being effectuated,” the broadcasters submitted.

“Also, DPOs generally insist that they would provide logs by truncating the same, however, truncated logs contain incomplete data and are susceptible to be misused by DPOs. Also, the veracity of truncated logs will always be doubtful.”

The broadcasters also want the DPO to ensure that the CAS and SMS vendors have the technical capability in India to maintain the systems on 24×7 basis throughout the year. The DPO to maintain CAS and SMS downtime records along with MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) and MTTR (Mean Time To Restore) validated by CAS and SMS vendors.

Further, they have suggested that fingerprinting must be video embedded by all DPOs at a subscriber level. Further, such fingerprinting should be detectable through STBs when upgraded through OTA and the STB should support both visible, covert types of fingerprinting and forensic watermarks.

“Provided that only the STB deployed after coming into effect of these regulations shall support the covert fingerprinting and Provided further that all the STBs deployed shall support covert fingerprinting for all pay channels by sunset date of 1st July 2020,” the submissions read.

It was also suggested that the distributor of television channels shall ensure that the current version of the DRM, in use, do not have any history of hacking. In the event hacking of the DRM system is detected, such as, but not limited to cloning of STBs and/or VCs, the DRM vendor to be served a show-cause notice as to why it should not be blacklisted with immediate effect.

“In the event of continued default beyond seven days, the DPO shall be liable to pay 150% of preceding month’s billed amount,” they noted.

The DRM should be configured for IPTV platform only and should not support any other platform like – OTT, Mobile TV & android base any device etc. Further, the IPTV STB should not have a feature to support OTT, mobile TV, Android base device & DVB C. The STBs should have Geo blocking feature, forensic watermarking.

The broadcasters also suggested that STBs with facilities for recording the linear content shall have the following protection:
(a) Content should get recorded along with fingerprinting, scroll message and watermarking logo
(b) Live fingerprinting and scroll message should display on play out of recorded content
(c) The linear channel content should get recorded along with entitlement of particular channel and recorded channel should get disable in case a particular channel is deactivated.
(d) Recorded content should not be able to play out on any device including STB except for authorized STB from where content gets recorded.