TRAI releases CP on landing page after go-ahead from TDSAT

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a consultation paper on issues related to placing of television channel on the landing page.

According to TRAI, the consultation paper has been issued with the aim to protect the interest of the consumers, to ensure fair growth of the sector, and to ensure unbiased TRP ratings raises various issues related to placement of television channels on landing page while providing an opportunity to all the stakeholders to deliberate on the issues and to provide comments/suggestions thereof.

The consultation paper has been issued after the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) allowed the authority to reconsider the issue in totality.

The authority had issued a direction dated 8th November 2017 wherein all the broadcasters and distributors of television channels were directed to restrain from placing any registered satellite television channel, whose TV rating is released by TV rating agency, on the landing LCN or landing channel or boot up screen.

The direction was challenged by Bennet Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL), All India Digital Cable Federation, DEN Networks, Fastway Transmission and Satellite Channels before the TDSAT. The petitioners had challenged the direction on the ground that the TRAI had not followed transparency in issuing the direction.

As per interim orders, the direction is not operative. As the primary ground of the said dispute was transparency, the authority conveyed its decision to reconsider the issue to TDSAT which was agreed to.

The TRAI said it has received a large number of complaints alleging that some distributors, in collusion with broadcasters, are placing television channels on the landing page to influence television ratings.

It is argued that channel available at landing page is not normal choice of the customer. Therefore, such channels may not be allowed for influencing TRP ratings.

In industry parlance, the landing channel or the landing page refers to the Logical Channel Number (LCN) which is displayed first when the set top box (STB) is switched on.

As per the practice, this channel is available for display on all the STBs connected to the network of a distributor. Such channels may be available to all customers irrespective of the choice and whether it is pay or free to air (FTA) channel.

Stakeholders can provide written comments on the consultation paper 20 April and counter-comments by 27 April.

The authority noted that presently there is a regulatory framework to guide placement of TV channel in distributors’ network but there is no regulation stipulating criteria to place a channel on the landing page.

Therefore, landing page LCN may be used for placing a television channel to show enhanced reach compared to other channels placed in other LCNs, therefore, the competing broadcaster may see it as a discriminatory practice.

TRAI noted that it had earlier received complaints regarding running of channels on multiple LCNs in different genres simultaneously.

After intervention by the authority, the practice of placing of channels on multiple LCNs in different genre was shifted to placing the channel on multiple LCNs within the same genre, simultaneously.

Thereafter, the authority pointed out, this practice was shifted to a specific type of dual LCNs wherein a TV channel was placed on landing page LCN as-well-as within its respective genre. Also, some distributors adapted the practice of placing a channel on landing channel only but not in its own genre.

Similarly, sometimes, the channels were placed on single LCN within its genre, however, this channel was made as ‘Landing Page’. In addition to this some of the recent complaints were relating to placing of a channel of a particular genre in a language other than the language of the channel.

For example, English News Channel is placed along with Telugu News or Bengali news Channels in the region where such language is popular. In all these complaints, the allegations were against the broadcasters and distributors regarding influencing of television rating of a TRP rated channel.

According to TRAI, placing the channels on landing page may be a powerful tool in influencing and artificially inflating the ratings of a TV channel. This practice may lead to a sudden hike in television rating in a very short span of time and distort well-established Eco-system.

The counter view, it stated, could be that the television channel at landing page may not be viewed by the customer, if it is not to his taste, therefore may move to the desired channel of her/his own choice. Therefore, the landing page may not impact significantly.

Further, the landing page may be used as a promotional tool for new channels so that a customer can experience the quality of newly launched programme/content or channel so that customer can take an informed decision of subscribing such channel.

Another view could be the TV channel at landing page may be seen as one additional channel or program available to the customer, beyond his choice of channels. Customer may watch if he/ she likes, else it may be ignored.

The counter view could be that the unwanted channel at landing channel may bring annoyance to the customer as it may not be as per his taste, every time STB is switched on it starts with such channel.

Issues for consultation:

1. Do you feel that emerging concept of placing TV channel on landing page can influence TRP ratings? Suggest the action which may address the issue with justification.

2. Should concept of landing page be defined? If so, please suggest the definition of the landing page with justification.

3. Will defining Framework for placing TV channels on landing page affect the present business model of distributors? If so, will it be considered impacting the freedom to do business by distributors of TV channels? Give your suggestions with justification.

4. Is landing page a natural choice of consumer while viewing TV channels? If not, why should channels, whose TV ratings are released by TV rating agency, be placed on landing page? Give your comments with justifications.

5. Whether placing of a TV channel on landing page increases television ratings? If yes, why TV Channels, whose TV ratings are released by TV rating agency, should not be barred from being placed on landing page? If no, why broadcasters are eager to place their channels on landing page? Give your suggestions with justification.

6. What should be the criteria/consideration to put a TV channels on landing page? Give your suggestion with justification.

7. Do you think the influence, if any, in television ratings by placing of TV channels on landing page can be mitigated through changes in measurement methodology of television ratings? Give your suggestions with justifications?

8. Please comment on the feasibility to implement user’s ‘last visited page’ as landing page in distributors’ network?

9. Should the landing page be used to place TV channels not having TRP rating or only to provide platform specific information? Give suggestions with justification.

10. Any other suggestions/comments related to the issue under consideration?

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