Broadcasters told to furnish info to TRAI on mode of delivering linear channels to OTT

The direction has been issued by TDSAT to Star India, Sony Pictures Networks India and Sun TV Network

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Sep 21, 2022 7:51 AM  | 3 min read

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has directed broadcasters Star India, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and Sun TV Network to furnish information to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regarding the mode of retransmission of linear channels on over the top (OTT) platforms.

According to sources, the tribunal has asked the three broadcasters to submit information to the TRAI within a week. The regulator had asked broadcasters to provide a detailed architecture that indicates the media being used to deliver linear content to their own as well as third-party streaming platforms.

While adjourning the matter to December7, the tribunal said that the prayer for staying the TRAI letter asking broadcasters to furnish information will be considered on the next date of hearing.

The TRAI has contended that the broadcasters are supplying signals of linear channels to the OTT platforms by circumventing Clause 5.6 of the Uplinking and Downlinking guidelines. The TDSAT noted that this is the basis on which the TRAI is seeking information from the broadcasters.

Clause 5.6 of the policy guidelines for downlinking of TV channels dated 5.12.2011 states that a broadcaster shall provide satellite TV channel signal reception decoders only to registered MSOs/Cable Operators, DTH operators, Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Service providers, and HITS operators.

According to sources, the tribunal contended that OTT platforms cannot bypass any law and that the TRAI has the authority, under Clause 5.6, to seek details from the broadcasters since there is a direct connect between the information being sought by the authority and Clause 5.6 of the policy guidelines.

In December 2021, the TDSAT directed the TRAI not to take coercive steps against broadcasters for not furnishing information related to the mode of retransmission of linear channels on OTT platforms.

While granting interim relief to the broadcasters, the tribunal had also asked the TRAI to carry out its own process to ascertain if the broadcasters are in violation of clause 5.6 of Downlinking Guidelines. Since OTT is not regulated, as per TRAI's own submission, the tribunal noted that TRAI cannot seek this information.

The broadcasters have argued that OTT is outside the scope of regulations regardless of the fact whether they are broadcasters or not. The broadcasters also contend that they don't use satellites or any other existing infrastructures which are regulated by TRAI.

TRAI, on its part, has said that it has issued letters to the broadcasters in their capacity as broadcasters and not as OTT platforms. The TRAI has also averred that they have the right to seek information from broadcasters. It further stated that the information has been sought to ascertain whether or not there is a breach of Clause 5.6.

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