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. The Ministry has requested TRAI to provide its recommendations under Section 11 (1) (a) on whether “In order to ensure fair competition, improved quality of service, and equity, should any restriction be imposed on MSOs/ LCOs to prevent monopolies/ accumulation of interest? If yes, what restrictions should be imposed and what should be the form, nature and scope of such restrictions?”
Accordingly, TRAI can also suggest amendments required in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) 1995 Act and Rules framed thereunder.
MSOs and LCOs are required to be registered with local post offices to be able to operate in the permitted areas of registration. However, as per recent amendments in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Rules 2012, it has become mandatory for MSOs to get registration from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to operate in those areas which are notified for analogue switch-off.
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. At present, there are no restrictions on the issue of accumulation of interest in terms of market share in a city, district, state or country by individual MSOs and LCOs in the cable sector. MSOs and LCOs are free to operate in any area(s) of their choice after obtaining registration from the Ministry. It is felt that such monopolies may not be in the interest of consumers and may have serious implications in terms of competition, pricing and healthy growth of cable TV sector in that market.
Earlier, the Ministry had made a reference to TRAI on May 16, 2012 to examine and recommend measures to address issues of cross media restrictions and safeguards. With this reference, the issues of monopolies in the broadcasting sector in the most comprehensive sense are set to get addressed by TRAI.
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