afaqs! news bureau

TV broadcasters to challenge Trai's directive on DD Free Dish channels: ET

The broadcasters are likely to move court against the Trai notification through industry bodies like Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation.

Television broadcasters are gearing up for a legal confrontation with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) over its recent directive concerning pay channels available on DD Free Dish, as per an ET report.

The broadcasters plan to contest the directive through industry bodies such as the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation and the News Broadcasters and Digital Association.

Earlier this week, Trai issued a notification stipulating that any TV channel authorised by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and available for free on the DD Free Dish platform cannot be declared a pay channel for other addressable distribution platforms.

According to the report, A senior executive from the television broadcast industry asserted that broadcasters have a robust case against Trai, arguing that the regulator lacks jurisdiction over DD Free Dish, which is a free direct-to-home (DTH) platform operated by Prasar Bharati.

Presently, over 15 pay channels spanning news and entertainment genres are available on DD Free Dish. Notably, the entertainment channels carry a nominal price due to their old content.

Both cable and DTH platforms have been advocating with MIB and Trai to bring DD Free Dish under the regulations to ensure fair competition. Trai has also recommended to MIB that DD Free Dish be upgraded to an encrypted platform in stages. Currently, the majority of DD Free Dish users employ MPEG-2 set-top boxes, which are unencrypted.

A few years ago, Prasar Bharati introduced encrypted MPEG-4 set-top boxes via authorised vendors; however, these devices did not achieve widespread adoption.

Pay-TV platforms, serving over 100 million households collectively, have been experiencing a loss of customers, particularly those in the lower market segment, to DD Free Dish, which offers more than 100 TV channels for free.

Industry estimates indicate that DD Free Dish reaches between 40 and 50 million homes, making it the largest single TV distribution platform in the country. Its user base is primarily concentrated in rural areas across northern and eastern Indian states.

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