Regulator cannot prohibit wrongful practices if landing page direction revoked, TRAI tells TDSAT

TRAI, in its response to the TDSAT, said that it will be left with no immediate power to prohibit wrongful practices if the landing page direction is revoked

by Nishant Saxena
Published - Dec 27, 2017 8:46 AM Updated: Dec 27, 2017 8:46 AM

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in its response to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) submitted that “if the impugned direction is struck-down it will set a wrong precedent” and will “render the regulator with no immediate power to prohibit wrongful practices.”
TDSAT had directed the TRAI to put a stay on its direction that restricts broadcasters and distributors from placing any registered satellite television channel, whose TV rating is released by TV rating agency, on the landing channel or boot up screen.
In a strong response, the authority told TDSAT that it had issued the direction after it received several representations from various sections of society regarding the misuse of landing page for getting higher TV rating.
“Landing page issue has also drawn attention of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and the Parliament as well,” it further said.
“...Times now and India Today was involved in running its channel on multiple LCNs to increase its television rating,” the TRAI said in its response. It further added a complaint was against MSOs such as Hathway Digital and Den Networks for running the Times Now channel and India Today channel on dual LCNs.
In its response to the TDSAT, the authority said “to prevent distortion in the market” it had “written letters to broadcasters against whom complaints were being received viz. Times Now, CNBC TV18, Republic TV and TV Today channels.”
“The increase in rating of any particular channel due to its placement on landing page is not the natural choice of consumer. Hence, permitting the continuance of such a practice will disturb the level playing field among the service providers,” the authority said.
Even while issuing the direction on November 8, 2017, the TRAI had said that “this practice may affect the orderly growth of the sector and is against the spirit of the policy guidelines for TV rating agencies.”
When a customer switches on the Set Top Box, it displays the landing page containing the channel first. This may happen multiple times as and when customer switches on the STB in a day. While landing channel continues to run on background, customer browses the menu options, which consumes some time.
“In this process the viewing channel at the background gets registered technically, even though the customer may not be watching that channel with any natural preference. This gives the channel an upper hand in the rating recorded by the audience measurement agency,” TRAI said explaining how the landing page is misused.
Also, the TRAI said that its direction “does not prevent distributors to offer many other services that are possible on landing page.” It further added that the direction does not prevent “from doing business with the landing page.
The matter has been adjourned by the tribunal till January 5, 2018 and TRAI is still restricted to give effect to its direction on the landing page till the next date.

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