The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released two draft regulations that seek to streamline the interconnection agreements that broadcasters sign with distributors.
The draft ‘Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) Interconnection (Digital Addressable Cable Television Systems) (Second Amendment) Regulations, 2013’ and the draft ‘Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Fourth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff (Second Amendment) Order, 2013’ seek to amend TRAI’s earlier notifications on the Interconnection Regulations for DAS dated April 30, 2012, as amended on May 14, 2012, and the Tariff Order applicable for the Addressable Systems dated July 21, 2010, as amended on April 30, 2012.
It may be recalled that on December 20, 2012, TRAI had issued a consultation paper on ‘Issues related to amendments to the Interconnection Regulations applicable for Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems & Tariff Order applicable for Addressable Systems’ in view of a TDSAT judgment dated October 19, 2012, and following representations from industry stakeholders and internal review within TRAI. As part of this consultation process, TRAI has come up with these draft amendments to the Interconnection Regulations and the Tariff Order.
Key amendments proposed in the draft are:
• Multi System Operators (MSOs) cannot seek signals of a particular TV channel from a broadcaster under ‘must provide’ clause, while at the same time demanding carriage fee for carrying that channel on its distribution platform.
• No minimum channel carrying capacity has been prescribed for the MSOs. However, the MSOs are mandated to carry the channels of broadcasters on a non-discriminatory basis under the ‘Must Carry’ provision.
• Service providers of the Addressable Systems are allowed to price and package their offering of channels; however, they are required to comply with the modified twin conditions, as proposed in the draft amendment to the Tariff Order. This is to ensure that the a-la-carte rates offered to the subscribers are reasonable vis-à-vis the bouquet/ package rates.
• As in the case of pay channels, operators can specify a minimum subscription period, not exceeding three months, for Free-to-Air (FTA) channels subscribed on a-la-carte basis by the subscribers.
• Subscribers are free to choose channels on a-la-carte basis or bouquet/ package basis or any combination of a-la-carte and bouquet/ package.
• Channels such as HD or 3D, requiring special type of set top box, are to be offered on a-la-carte basis, and if such channels are also offered as part of a bouquet(s), corresponding to each such bouquet, the operator would be required to offer bouquet(s) excluding the HD and 3D channels at a reduced price, commensurate to the rates of these HD and 3D channels.