TRAI seeks to regulate interactive content on DTH

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | April 30, 2009
The regulator has received comments on its consultation paper on the value added services of DTH operators

Broadcast and telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is working on recommendations to regulate tariffs on direct to home (DTH) services and the value added services offered by DTH operators on their interactive channels. TRAI is mulling whether these services should be recognised as separate broadcast channels, which will make them subject to the up linking/down linking guidelines and the advertisement code.

The consultation paper released by TRAI has received responses from 21 organisations representing DTH operators, broadcasters, cable operators, consumer organisations and distribution agents.

TRAI proposed that since the movie on demand (MOD), pay per view (PPV) and active services provided by DTH operators are not originally part of their license provisions, they should be designated as broadcast channels.

In response to this, Dish TV has suggested that this content can be classified into two. In its submission to TRAI, Dish TV states, "Dish TV is of the opinion that MOD is a channel approved under down linking policy and should be treated as an independent channel and a broadcast service." It supports this view by saying that particular movies, events or sports could be bought exclusively by certain operators and shown on demand only to its subscribers. As a channel, it would be subject to the 'must provide' clause so that it would not be able to deny its content to any distribution channel.

As for the active services, Dish TV suggests that since they are data services, they cannot be categorised as broadcast channels. It adds that DTH operators have to comply with the advertisement code and the programming code in any case.

On the other hand, Tata Sky writes in its response, "These services are basically on-demand, informative and interactive in nature and mostly contain graphical information. In India, too, services offered by DTH service providers have evolved over last three years based on global practices and consumer preferences." It adds that since these services are neither marketed nor perceived as channels with linear programming, they should not be treated as such.

The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of India (CASBAA) strongly opposes the move to treat on-demand services as channels. CASBAA is also against regulation of the same, noting that "account should be taken of the very high degree of consumer choice involved in selecting content on these platforms - for most on demand type services, the consumer makes a conscious commercial decision to view the content, usually at a time of his own selection."

MSM Discovery (formerly The One Alliance), the distribution company for Sony and Colors among others, is of a different opinion altogether. It states, "In so far as such services utilise precious and scarce transponder space, the same ought not to be permitted until additional transponder capacity becomes available. It cannot be that on one hand DTH service providers deny carriage to broadcasters on the plea of lack of transponder space and in the same breath push their own content through their respective platforms."

It goes on to add that content should be the domain of broadcasters alone and that DTH operators should not be allowed to generate content.

Taking note of these responses, TRAI is expected to formulate guidelines on the content and services offered by DTH operators.

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