Broadcasters Want License Fee and Cap on Platform Services for DTH Operators

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There has been a long going debate between the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the Direct-to-Home (DTH) operators in the country about the platform services that they can offer. Now in a new development on that front, the Indian broadcasters have spoken out and written to Trai saying that there should be a cap on the number of platform services that the Indian DTH operators are allowed to run on their platform. It is worth noting that platform services are different when compared to a satellite TV channel which is provided by a broadcaster and is not exclusive to the DTH or the particular DPO platform. Whereas, the Platform Services are created by the DTH operators only and they are available for a cost to their subscribers, as they exclusive to the particular platform.


Channel Capacity Becomes Question in Limit for Platform Services

The broadcasters have sent out to the comments to the telecom regulator upon the consultation paper ‘Platform Services Offered by DTH Operators’. As part of this submission, the popular broadcaster Sony Pictures Networks India also wrote to Trai saying that there should be a limit to how many platform services a particular DTH operator can offer. Sony also added that the cap be set at 1% to 2% of the entire capacity, which is offered by the DTH operators. Adding to this, the broadcaster also said that the DTH operator should retransmit the signal of the channels being provided by the broadcasters and there should not be any constraint on bandwidth because of the platform services being offered by DTH operators. Sony Pictures Network India stated, “TV channels should have primacy since the license for operations of DTH Operator was given with the primary objective of retransmitting TV channels.”

Broadcasters Ask for Max 15 Platform Services for Each DTH Operator

Times Network, another major broadcaster had a similar thing to say on the consultation paper. Times Network said that the number of platform services that a DTH operator is allowed to provide should be linked to the channel capacity of the DTH operator. This essentially means that similar to how SPNI has said, according to Times Network also, the number of platform services allowed by a DTH company should be some percentage of its total capacity. Times Network suggested a 5% limit of total capacity for platform services, with a cap of a maximum of 15 channels with dedicated platform services by the DTH operator. The broadcaster also added that a large number of platform services could impact the TV watching experience in a negative manner.

Platform Service Content Likely to Remain Exclusive to DTH Operators

Some of the broadcasters also brought to light that too many platform services would lead to capacity constraint with the Direct-to-Home platform owners. This would mean that the platform services would start getting more preferences as compared to the channels by the broadcasters. There was also the question of whether or not the content generated by one platform should be made available on other platforms as well, to which SPNI said that it should be left on the content owner to decide. Times Network, on the other hand, said that sharing and broadcasting content on other platforms could have far-reaching consequences. It also said that once the content is made available on other platforms, it will not be up for monetisation by the DTH operators. This is likely to lead to restrictive practices. ABP News Network said that the platform services should be kept exclusive to the DTH operators, else they would lose the status of platform services.

Also, on the topic of registration fee of platform services, Times Network suggested that Rs 1 lakh can be charged per platform service as registration charge in addition to an annual fee. According to the broadcaster, there should be a similar annual or registration fee for the platform services, as the broadcasters are asked to pay for a channel license. It is worth noting that the broadcasters and DTH operators are divided on this issue as broadcasters are not in favour of an additional platform service registration fee.

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Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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