Out of all the issues going on in the DTH industry of India, one of the platform issues has also snowballed into a big one. There has been a struggle going on between the broadcasters and the DTH service providers over the platform services for which the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had to intervene. Trai floated a consultation, a while back on which it invited comments from the industry stakeholders, and the consultation paper, along with the comments and the counter comments was available on the Trai official website. The title of the consultation paper was “Platform Services Offered by DTH Operators” and it was floated after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has sent a reference letter to the telecom regulator. There were many issues open for discussion in the consultation paper which were also taken up at an Open House organised by Trai. Some of these issues included whether or not the DTH operators should pay registration fees for the platform services and also the cap on the number of platform services allowed. With a new notification on this matter, Trai has shared its observations on the issue.
Platform Services to Remain Exclusive to DTH Operators
The first thing that Trai has noted in its latest release is the definition of platform services which according to the 'Regulatory Framework for Platform Services' dated November 19, 2014 reads, "Platform services (PS) are programs transmitted by Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs)exclusively to their own subscribers and does not include Doordarshan channels and registered TV channels. PS shall not include foreign TV channels that are not registered in India." Now it is worth noting that, one of the topics of discussion with Trai was that whether or not platform services would be exclusive to the DTH operator or whether it would be distributable like other broadcaster channels. To this, Trai has said that the platform services should be exclusive to the DTH operator.
Trai has noted “Programme transmitted by the DTH operator as a platform service shall not directly or indirectly include any registered TV channel or Doordarshan channel or foreign TV channel. Time-shift feed of registered TV channels (such as +1 services) shall not be allowed as a platform service.” It has further added, “DTH operator shall ensure and provide an undertaking to the Ministry in the format prescribed by the Ministry that the programme transmitted is exclusive to their platform and not shared directly or indirectly with any other DPO.” Further, the platform service will be cancelled as per the new rules, and Trai will send a notice if the platform service is found to be playing elsewhere apart from the DTH platform.
Cap on Number of PS Channels and Registration Fee
As for the limit of platform services, Trai has noted that the number of platform services should be capped at 3% of the total channel carrying capacity of the DTH operators, but the number should not exceed 15 PS channels. Trai has also noted that under the Electronic Programmable Guide (EPG), these channels will have to be listed as ‘Platform Services’. And in a decision, which is likely to please the broadcasters in the industry, the DTH operators will also be charges a registration fee for airing the platform service channel on their DTH platform, and this has been fixed as a one-time non-refundable registration fee of Rs 10,000 per PS channel. Also, in the coming time, the DTH operators might be required to put a caption on these channels titled “Platform Services” so that the viewers can differentiate between the PS channels and the broadcaster channels. The size of this caption will be decided by the government so that it is readable.