TRAI mulls regulating number of platform services offered by DTH ops
MUMBAI: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is planning to cap the maximum number of platform services (PS) that can be offered by direct to home (DTH) operators.
The regulator has issued a consultation paper on ‘Platform Services offered by DTH Operators’ as the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) has sought its recommendations on various issues related to PS with reference to DTH guidelines.
The MIB has asked the TRAI to reconsider the maximum number of PS channels that a DTH operator can offer keeping in view that it is so far unregulated.
The TRAI noted that the purpose of granting permission to distribution platform operators (DPOs) is to carry TV channels covered under uplinking/ downlinking guidelines. Therefore, it is essential that the major portion of the distribution capacity of these platforms is used for the intended purpose.
It further stated that a small portion of this distribution capacity may be used for PS so as to meet the specific need of the subscribers of these DPOs. This also leaves room for innovation by any individual DPO.
Accordingly, the TRAI stated that there is a need to limit the number of PS channels offered by the DPO. This limit may be specified as a % of the total number of channels offered by that DPO or a fixed number (say n no. of channels) or a combination of above i.e. a % of the total number of channels offered or a fixed number, whichever is lower.
The TRAI noted that the DTH operators have declared no spare capacity. DTH operators face channel capacity constraint due to limited transponder capacity.
The interconnection regulations depending upon the availability of spare channel capacity mandates the DPO to ‘must carry’ the channel of a broadcaster. DTH operators, the TRAI has said, are carrying a high number of PS.
The TRAI feels that the availability of such a high number of PS channels provide more than enough ground to exploit the position of channel capacity constraints
The authority in its recommendations dated 19th November 2014 recommended a maximum of 15 PS channels that could be offered by the DPOs which includes DTH operators.
The regulator also noted that the price of PS vary, therefore, it has sought views of the stakeholders on the need or otherwise of regulating the rates of the PS channels.
Presently, PS channels being offered by DPOs are not regulated under any specific guidelines of MIB. The TRAI also stated that if the programme is exclusive to one DTH operator it should not be available to any other DTH operator otherwise it would become another broadcaster channel and lose the tag of PS.
Since the DTH operators are responsible for programmes transmitted through PS channels, the TRAI stated that the entity offering the PS channels is legally responsible and registered under an appropriate regulatory framework.
The MIB in the reference also asked recommendation on whether the one-time registration fee can be considered for enhancement to Rs. 1 lakh per PS channel as against Rs. 1000 per PS channel proposed by the authority.
On the issue of having separate sequence number on the EPG for PS channels, the regulator has mentioned that since PS channels are not regular TV channels, these channels should be sequenced separately and should be displayed separately under the ‘PS’ or ‘Value Added Services’ heading.
Another issue for consultation is if the government should issue a notification stipulating therein the font size of the sequence number of PS channels so as to distinguish them from regular TV channels.
The TRAI also stated that since the provisions already exist in the Quality of Service Regulations dated 3rd March 2017 regarding activation/deactivation of TV channels, hence that the same regulations can be applied to PS channels. In any case, for ease at the subscriber level, there is a need of provision for activation or de-activation of any PS channel at the subscriber end.
The regulator has also sought views whether certain provisions should be there regarding the composition or genre of PS channels in order to ensure that PS channels remain distinct from the registered TV channels and do not trespass the domain of broadcasters either overtly or covertly.
Issues for Consultation
- Do you think programmes of the PS should be exclusively available on one single DTH operators’ network only to qualify as a PS channel for the DPO? Should there be any sharing of such programmes with other DPOs? If yes, please provide justification and if no, the reasons thereof.
- In case answer to Question 1 is no, how it can be ensured that programmes of the PS are exclusively available only on single DTH operators’ network? What conditions are to be imposed in registration/license/guidelines?
- Is there a need to revisit/review the earlier recommendations of the Authority dated 11th November, 2014, relating to keeping recording of all PS channel programs for a period of 90 days and maintaining a written log/ register of such program for a period of 1 year by the DPO from the date of broadcast and the role of Authorised Officer and the State/ District Monitoring Committee and MIB as monitoring authorities.
- What should be the Registration fee/Annual fee for PS per channel? And how it is to be estimated?
- How many PS channels are to be allowed to DTH operators? and Why?
- Whether PS channels should be placed separately on EPG to distinguish them from regular TV channels? If yes, how these channels are to be placed?
- Should there be any provision for displaying name and sequence number of PS channels in a particular font size under the heading ‘PS’ or ‘Value Added Services’ on TV screen so as to distinguish them from the regular TV channels? If yes, please provide justification.
- Should PS channels be also categorised in specific genre such as ‘Devotional’ or ‘General Entertainment’ or ‘Infotainment’ or ‘Kids’ or ‘Movies’ or ‘Music’ or ‘News and Current Affairs’ or ‘Sports’ or ‘Miscellaneous’? Please provide proper justification for your answer.
- Stakeholders may also provide their comments on any other issue relevant to the present consultation.