To create a regulatory framework for platform services offered by Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended the establishment of an online system by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, to register all the platform services.
The registration is on the basis of a simple set of information and at a nominal registration fee of Rs 1000 per channel.
According to the recommendations, TRAI said distribution platform operators (DPOs) desirous of providing platform services must be incorporated as a company under the Indian Companies Act 2013. TRAI had issued a consultation paper on ‘Regulatory framework for Platform Services’ on 23 June and the recommendations are based on the responses received from stakeholders.
The regulator said there is an urgent need to ensure that these programming services are brought within the four corners of a robust and fair regulatory system that addresses all concerns adequately. Earlier, the ministry in a letter to TRAI on 17 January 2013, sought recommendations of TRAI under section 11 (1) (a) (ii), (iii) and (iv) of TRAI Act, 1997 on the issues related to local ground-based channels of cable TV operators.
In addition, through an earlier letter of 2 February 2009, the ministry had also sought TRAI’s recommendations about such kind of programming services being offered by DTH service providers to their subscribers as well as on the issue of carriage of FM radio channels on the DTH platform. The regulator also issued a letter in this connection to the secretary in the ministry, Bimal Julka.
In the meantime, TRAI has also said a time of 12 months should be given to the DPOs to comply with the guidelines to be issued by the ministry in this regard. Plus, prior clearance is required from the district authorities of any local information and local affairs bulletins that may be transmitted. Platform Services (PS) are programming services/ channels that are owned by the DPO; available only to the subscribers of the DPO’s network; advertisements, if any, on these channels is inserted by the DPO and ad-revenues, therefore, accrue to it.
Regular TV channels, howsoever transmitted, and Doordarshan channels which appear on the TV networks, cannot be included in PS. Further, foreign TV channels not registered in India cannot be included in PS.
However, a maximum number of five PS channels may be offered by the cable operators in non-DAS areas. In DAS areas and for all other platforms, a maximum of 15 PS channels may be offered by the DPOs. These numbers are the number of PS channels to be made available at the subscribers’ end.
In addition to the recommendations on platform services, the authority has suo motu made recommendations for a regulatory framework for ground based broadcasters as well. This has been done to ensure that any TV channel that is distributed on any TV network in India is covered by a regulatory framework, whether it is obtained from a satellite-based broadcaster; produced by the network operator or sourced from a terrestrial broadcaster.
On the other hand, the recommendations for the ground-based broadcasters are largely the same as that for the satellite broadcasters, barring the requirements of seeking spectrum and approvals in that regard from Department of Telecom and the Department of Space. Retransmission of FM radio channels on TV channel distribution networks has been recommended provided that all the legal rights to do so are obtained. However, the authority has said that this matter will be revisited at a later point in time, once the FM radio industry fully develops in India.
These recommendations have been issued in view of ground based channels being operated at the level of cable TV operators and regarding the kind of programming services being offered by the DTH service providers to their subscribers. The authority recommends that no change in the existing FDI limits and net-worth requirements be made for DPOs offering PS.
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