DPOs and broadcasters told to comply with IA regulations by TRAI or face action

According to TRAI, the IA regulations are aimed to formulate the contours of a reporting system for the service providers

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Dec 9, 2021 9:35 AM
TRAI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has directed broadcasters and distribution platform operators (DPOs) to immediately implement the provisions of register of interconnection agreements  (IA) and submit the compliance report within 15 days failing which action would be taken as per the provisions of the said regulations and TRAI Act, 1997.

The TRAI had made the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Register of Interconnection Agreements (IA) and all such other matters Regulations, 2019 (2 of 2019) on 4th September 2019, and all the provisions of the said regulations have come into force w.e.f. 2nd January 2020. The provisions of the said regulations were challenged by the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) before the High Court of Kerala which had ordered TRAI not to take any coercive action. While disposing of the writ petition, the Kerala HC had partially set aside the provision which required registration of placement/marketing agreements.

The TRAI noted that all the provisions of the said regulations, except to the extent that they require registration of placement/marketing agreements, are in operation; and the service providers who have failed to comply with the same, are liable to be proceeded against, under the provisions of the said regulations and TRAI Act, 1997.

For the purpose of filing data/details pertaining to the said regulations, the authority has developed B&CS Integrated Portal System (BIPS), which was made live on 2nd January 2020. "In view of the above, all the broadcasters and distributors of TV channels are requested to immediately implement the provisions of the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Register of Interconnection Agreements and all such other matters Regulations, 2019, and submit the compliance report within fifteen days from the date of issue of this letter; failing which, action would be taken as per the provisions of the said regulations and TRAI Act, 1997," the TRAI said in its letter to all DPOs and broadcasters.

What does the regulation say?

According to TRAI, the primary objective of the register of Interconnect regulations is to formulate the contours of a reporting system for the service providers so that they can report details of interconnection agreements including commercial details to the authority. It would enable the authority to maintain a register of interconnect as per provisions of the TRAI Act.

The new regulation mandates every broadcaster to report details of interconnection agreements with DPOs including commercial details to the authority. This includes the details of all other individual agreements which include marketing, placement, agreements on advertisement slots, and extended credit facility.

The regulator has further stated that the marketing fee details and for that matter, any kind of fee for a channel, between broadcaster and distributor shall be reported to the authority. As mentioned above, this provision has been set aside by the Kerala High Court on AIDCF's plea.

Unlike carriage fee which has been capped at 20 paise per channel per subscriber per month, TRAI has decided against putting any ceiling on placement fee, marketing fee or any other nomenclature of mutual agreement among service providers.

In addition to reporting their RIO, the broadcasters will also have to report the details of the information of the individual and all other agreements signed with the DPOs. Any deviation in RIO-based agreements also needs to be reported under Regulation 3(3) of this regulation.

Initially, the distributors having an average active subscriber base below 100,000 have been exempted from the obligation of reporting details of interconnection agreements to promote ease of business and reduce the regulatory burden on such MSOs with limited resources. The distributor having an average active subscriber base below the reporting threshold have been exempted from the obligation of reporting details of interconnection agreements.

However, all the DPOs will have to report their carriage RIO to the authority. The average active subscriber base for the month of March will be calculated as prescribed in Interconnection Regulations, 2017. For a distributor having multiple head-ends, the calculation will include the subscribers of all the distribution networks including those of all the head-ends operated by him.

What does the regulation say?

According to TRAI, the primary objective of the register of Interconnect regulations is to formulate the contours of a reporting system for the service providers so that they can report details of interconnection agreements including commercial details to the authority. It would enable the authority to maintain a register of interconnect as per provisions of the TRAI Act.

The new regulation mandates every broadcaster to report details of interconnection agreements with DPOs including commercial details to the authority. This includes the details of all other individual agreements which include marketing, placement, agreements on advertisement slots, and extended credit facility.

The regulator has further stated that the marketing fee details and for that matter, any kind of fee for a channel, between broadcaster and distributor shall be reported to the authority. As mentioned above, this provision has been set aside by the Kerala High Court on AIDCF's plea.

Unlike carriage fee which has been capped at 20 paise per channel per subscriber per month, TRAI has decided against putting any ceiling on placement fee, marketing fee or any other nomenclature of mutual agreement among service providers.

In addition to reporting their RIO, the broadcasters will also have to report the details of the information of the individual and all other agreements signed with the DPOs. Any deviation in RIO-based agreements also needs to be reported under Regulation 3(3) of this regulation.

Initially, the distributors having an average active subscriber base below 100,000 have been exempted from the obligation of reporting details of interconnection agreements to promote ease of business and reduce the regulatory burden on such MSOs with limited resources. The distributor has an average active subscriber base below the reporting threshold have been exempted from the obligation of reporting details of interconnection agreements.

However, all the DPOs will have to report their carriage RIO to the authority. The average active subscriber base for the month of March will be calculated as prescribed in Interconnection Regulations, 2017. For a distributor having multiple head-ends, the calculation will include the subscribers of all the distribution networks including those of all the head-ends operated by him.

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