In an attempt to boost direct-to-home (DTH) services and promote competition, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has suggested that content must be made available freely and on a non-discriminatory basis.
In its draft recommendations on interconnection regulations for the broadcasting sector, the regulator has said that exclusivity has not been a feature in India's fragmented cable TV market.
However in the case of DTH platform, broadcasters such as Star India and Sony Entertainment Television (SET) have not signed any commercial agreement with Subhash Chandra's DTH platform even for channels available on cable.
The TRAI has said that from consumers' point-of-view, if all the channels are not available on one DTH platform then the consumers may have to install more than one dish to view their favourite channels. Also by denying content to one platform, subscribers would be denied the choice of content.
The DTH platform is seen as a carrier of TV channels and its vertical integration with the broadcaster cannot be the reason for content denial to the other distributors. The DTH platforms would have to compete on the strength of the quality of service, tariffs and packaging of the TV channels and not on the content.
Also since DTH is viewed as a competitor to cable TV and competition between the two would be enhanced if all the content is available on both platforms. It would be illogical for a consumer to have two arrangements to view the differing content of two platforms.
Moreover if a popular content is available on the cable network and is not available on the DTH platform, it would never be able to give an effective alternative to the cable services.
Similarly the cable industry should not be denied content that is available on DTH. In the interest of consumers it is essential that all channels are available on all platforms on a non-discriminatory basis. This would promote competition amongst different platforms and thus would be beneficial for the consumers.
The regulator has said that broadcasters and multi-system operators should not offer volume or bulk discounts on a preferential basis to a select group of operators. It has further said that consumers should not be troubled by arbitrary disconnection of signals.
It has therefore been decided to impose a restriction on the broadcaster/multi system operator that they cannot cut off the signals without giving at least one month's notice.
The TRAI has also offered certain safeguards to the broadcasters. It has said that service providers must settle dues and provide protection against piracy. A broadcaster can deny signals only if instances of piracy are established.