Facing heavy losses, cable operators demand regulation of OTT platforms

Cable operators claim to have suffered losses running into crores in the past one year because of the OTT platforms. The associations wants TRAI to intervene and resolve it.

e4m by Nishant Saxena
Published: Jul 31, 2018 9:00 AM  | 3 min read

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), in its tariff order has directed broadcasters to declare the maximum retail price (MRP) and nature of all their channels. However, the same broadcasting companies with parallel presence on internet via over the top (OTT) platforms can stream the channels without having to worry about the tariff order or downlinking permission from the government.

This objection has been raised by cable operators who claim that they have suffered losses running into crores in the past one year because of the OTT platforms. The All Local Cable Operators Association of India (ALCOAI) has written two letters to TRAI in this regard in last one month.

“Pertinent to mention that the same content/channels for which MRP and nature have to be declared by broadcasters within 60 days from the date of notification i.e. 03.07.2018 are being shown on these various non-permitted OTT-IPTV platforms,” the association wrote in the letter.

Explaining the situation to exchange4media, Narendra Bargi, General Secretary, ALCOAI, said, “Cable TV operators have faced losses of around Rs 100-125 crore in the last one year. The situation got worsened with the launch of Jio. Now, internet data rates have fallen and one can watch everything for almost free. Earlier, DTH operators took away our subscriber base that we had created since early 90s.”

“While losing customers due to technological innovations is one thing. What is important to look at is that on the one hand, broadcasters need downlinking permission from the government to air TV channels in India, and on the other hand, foreign channels can be easily watched without any permission or restriction using the OTT services,” he added.

ALCOAI claims that most of the OTT and IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) operators do not have the required permission from the government.

“On the basis of information available with us, most of the OTT and IPTV operators have not been granted permission by the Central government to provide services and they are also not registered as DPO by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting,” read another letter written from ALCOAI to TRAI.

“It also becomes imperative to state here that pornographic content and non- permitted channels are being telecasted/redistributed without any restriction on this unlicensed IPTV/OTT IPTV service,” the letter further mentioned.

The availability of TV channels on certain OTT platforms is also in contradiction to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s notice issued on December 23, 2015. The notice restricts broadcasters to give access to their signals to not registered/permitted IPTV service provider.

The ministry notice read, “...compliance of the above clause should be strictly adhered to by all registered broadcasters (channels) and no satellite TV channel signal reception decoders or access to their signals per se be provided to any MSO/Cable Opertors, DTH Operators, IPTV service provider and HITS operator who is not registered/permitted by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.”

According to media reports, earlier this year, TRAI was evaluating a consultation process to regulate online video streaming platforms. However, so far, there has been no further update on it.

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