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Monday, May 9, 2016

TRAI eyes revamp of broadcast regulation

Tweaks in licensing pacts to allow infrastructure sharing, as in telecom, and Internet via cable TV on regulator’s agenda

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman R.S. Sharma expressed concern at the perceived lack of transparency in television broadcasting and said that an overhaul of the sector’s regulatory environment is needed.

“We are going to take a complete and holistic relook at the regulatory environment of the entire broadcast sector,” Sharma said.

He pointed out that though broadcasting came under the purview of TRAI in 2004, it has not seen much regulation. Compared with telecom, “the sector has a whole lot of issues regarding transparency and relationship agreements”, he said.

“What we are trying to address is the contracts between the content providers, that is, the channel providers, the multi-system operators (MSO) and direct-to-home (DTH) operators. We have been floating multiple consultation papers so that the issues of all the stakeholders can be addressed as early as possible,” he added.

The stakeholders include television broadcasters, MSOs, distribution platform operators (DPOs), local cable operators and consumers.

DPOs obtain the TV channels from the broadcasters and offer these to the consumers either directly through DTH and Internet protocol television (IPTV) or through cable operators.

“The whole emphasis is on transparency...in relationships among stakeholders,” he said.

In 2016 so far, the regulator has floated two consultation papers and plans to come up with another on the norms for the quality of service for the stakeholders in broadcasting.

TRAI lays down the standards of service for different service providers such as broadcasters, DPOs and cable operators and conducts a periodic survey of these services to protect the interests of consumers.

Earlier this week, it issued a consultation paper on the interconnection arrangements between the various service providers who use digital addressable systems. Interconnection arrangements refer to the commercial and technical terms and conditions of agreements between the broadcast stakeholders.

“We are trying to bring a comprehensive set of issues faced by the different stakeholders under consideration,” Sharma said.

He also spoke about his idea of broadcast infrastructure sharing. Like telecom, there is scope for broadcasters, too, to share their infrastructure in order to reduce the cost of operations. The regulator may soon come out with a consultation paper proposing tweaks in the existing licensing arrangements to facilitate infrastructure sharing.

“After we float the consultation paper, we will quantify/estimate as to how much can be saved by broadcasters. Accordingly, we will submit the recommendations to the ministry and if there is something within the domain of TRAI, then we will take appropriate decisions,” Sharma added.

TRAI has recently submitted its recommendations to the government on the idea of Internet via cable TV. According to Sharma, cable Internet will provide reliable and robust broadband connectivity in a country like India where connectivity is a problem.....

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