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Is TRAI’s involvement in TV distribution needed?

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Is TRAI’s involvement in TV distribution needed?

With preparations on full swing to meet the deadline for Phase II of cable TV digitisation, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to suggest ways of avoiding a distribution monopoly by multi-system operators (MSOs) or large cable networks as well as local cable operators (LCOs) in different markets.

But some of the multi system operators and local operators are not in support of this initiative.  There are talks that it can hamper the business between the operators and impact the coming digitisation process.

Ashok Mansukhani, President, MSO Alliance, said, “The terms of reference to TRAI are unknown. However, the cable market is intensely competitive with 60,000 cable operators/6,000 large operators broadly known as MSOs and 5 national MSOs. There is strong ground competition within major towns and cities with shifting market share. Government’s policy of easy licensing in digital era will lead to the creation of more MSOs. In fact many new MSOs were licensed for Phase 1. So per se a "monopoly" is a remote proposition.”

He also added, “If TRAI will look into it, hopefully it will be fully transparent in its enquiry. At present, no negative impact will come on the cable industry as a result of the reference. Digitisation is a fact of life and nothing will stop its positive march. Issues of cartelisation in broadcast sector are sub-justice and hence, no comments are offered therein.”

It has been observed that the cable TV distribution is virtually monopolised in some states as operation of the entire cable TV network is dominated by a single entity in that state. To some extent, Tamilnadu, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are among a few states where monopoly dominates.

However, Vikki Chowdhry, MD, Home Cable, supported the government’s initiative for curbing the monopolistic areas in various states. He shared, “It’s a very important matter and this needs to be addressed properly. It will impact the coming phase of digitisation and we need to address this issue and then go ahead.”

Cable operators are also worried about the business between MSOs and LCOs. Some of them are thinking if this initiative will come into existence it will help get rid of monopoly.

AK Rastogi, President, Aavishkar Dish Antena Sangh, said, “We think TRAI should stand up and take some action as this issue needs to be resolved as early as possible. Though monopoly is not in all the states but it needs to be monitored.”

It is well understood that government is not leaving any stone unturned to create a smooth process for digitisation.  After the success of the first phase, it will be interesting to see the different measures taken for accomplishing the ambitious objective .

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