TV broadcasters in favour of strict KYC norms for DTH STBs to prevent smuggling, piracy

MUMBAI: TV broadcasters are in favour of introducing KYC or e-KYC norms for direct to home (DTH) set top boxes (STBs) to counter the menace of piracy and STB smuggling to other countries.

The broadcasters also support incorporating location-based services (LBS) in the existing DTH STBs as well as to be mandated for all new STBs of all DPOs to track location and facilitate verification.

In its submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) submitted that there is an absolute and an imminent need for the introduction and proper enforcement of meaningful KYC or e-KYC stipulations of DTH STBs. It added that this necessary to curb smuggling of DTH STBs outside of India and to bring in some level of threshold checks to counter the menace of piracy.

In July, the TRAI had issued a consultation paper on ‘KYC of DTH Set Top Boxes’. The ministry of information & broadcasting (MIB) had sent a reference to TRAI requesting the regulator to give its considered recommendations on desirability or otherwise of Know Your Customer (KYC) for STBs in DTH Services and, if desirable, then the process for the same.

The IBF noted that the DTH platforms in India are permitted to have subscribers only within the territory of India, however, numerous unauthorised STBs of Indian DTH operators are reported to be active and functioning beyond the Indian territory due to the satellite footprints overspill.

“We would also like to submit that for instances where DTH STBs are caught for being used by DPOs for illegal retransmission of signals of broadcaster’s channels, then the respective DTH platform whose STBs were used for such illegal retransmission of channels should be obligated to share the details of such individual subscribers with the respective broadcasters (whose channels were retransmitted illegally) and also to the cybersecurity cells for the purpose of further investigations,” the IBF submitted.

The IBF also stated that one-time KYC or e-KYC should be done at the time of installation by necessary verification conducted of the subscriber address. Post initial verification, random verification can be done on a periodic basis to ensure that STB is not moved from its installation address.

Periodicity of such inspection can be at such reasonable intervals as may be decided basis discussion and consultation with relevant stakeholders however, with a gap of at least three months between each visit.

It also came out in support of LBS contending that the security of the broadcasters’ content is of paramount importance and this will also help the DPOs to minimise their own revenue loss.

“Pirates sell content that are gained through illegal procurement of DTH STBs at a very nominal cost, thus impacting both DTH operators’ and broadcasters’ revenues. Many top content providers (including studios) are hesitant to enter Indian market due to very weak content protection laws. In fact, LBS should be mandated for both DTH and HITS operators from piracy prevention perspective,” it stated.

Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) wants a curb on the misuse of STBs of all unscrupulous distribution platform operators (DPOs). It stated that KYC or e-KYC process should be extended to STBs of all DPOs.

It also stated that mere filling up of customer application forms (CAFs) or e-CAFs by customers is not good enough in tackling piracy as there is no mechanism to ascertain the veracity of information so provided.

The broadcaster noted that during the KYC process the potential pirate may also manage to provide the requisite documents/ mobile numbers to the DPO for acquiring the DTH STBs. However, he would take the said STBs abroad and continue with his piracy.

“To curb this type of smuggling of STBs, DPO needs to have geofencing in their system/STBs. Geo-fencing will stop any illegal transfer of STBs into foreign countries. All these steps would help in ensuring that DTH STBs are installed and used at such premises/locations as have been specified by the subscriber at the time of installation of DTH STBs by authorised engineers/technicians of the concerned DTH operator,” SPNI stated.

SPNI also said that the incorporation of LBS in the STBs not only of DTH Operators but also of other DPOs to track location and facilitate verification would restrict the amount of smuggling of the STBs outside India and would be very helpful in curbing piracy. It also said that the cost should be borne by the concerned DPOs.

Times Network submitted that the LBS may be incorporated in the new STBs being seeded in the market. In view of the large STBs already being deployed, the same should not be mandated for the existing STBs. The additional cost for such LBS should form part of the new STBs, it added.

The broadcaster also stated that the KYC process should be designed in such a way that it is driven by technology and causes minimum disturbance to the users while at the same time achieves its desired purpose. “If it is too cumbersome, it may deviate a part of a subscriber to other modes like Cable etc. where the KYC norms are not applied, thereby affecting the DTH business prospects in India.”

ABP News Network (ANN) supported the suggestion put forth by MIB wherein Filling of KYC form and verification of Aadhar Card may be mandatory for any customer purchasing DTH equipment. In order to check the location in accordance with customer ID /Card ID, location-based services need to be made active in DTH STBs, it added.

ANN added that such a rule must require passing the test of constitutionality which has been laid down by a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court.

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