TRAI recommends cap on DTH platform services, exclusivity in new recommendations

In the new recommendations issued Wednesday, TRAI has capped the total number of platform services to 3% of the total channel carrying capacity of the DTH player, subject to a maximum of 15 such channels. At present, Tata Sky alone has over 30 pla...

MUMBAI: In a move that is surely going to get challenged in the courts by the direct-to-home (DTH) players, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out with new set of recommendations for the sectors related to the platform services (PS) they offer to the subscribers.

In the new recommendations issued Wednesday, TRAI has capped the total number of platform services to 3% of the total channel carrying capacity of the DTH player, subject to a maximum of 15 such channels. At present, Tata Sky alone has over 30 platform services, while Airtel Digital TV and Dish TV also have much more than 15 services.

Incidentally, most of the DTH operators had opposed any cap on the number of PS channels offered by the DTH providers. In their response to the TRAI’s consultation paper, operators had highlighted that they provide pan-India service and need to cater to customers of varied tastes and languages.


Talking to ET, a senior executive of a DTH firm said that the recommendations are definitely going to be challenged. “This will affect our business. At a time when the broadcasters are launching their own streaming services to directly distribute their content, why can’t we be allowed to have our own channels? This is opposite of creating a level playing field,” he said on condition of anonymity.

One DTH player had, in fact, suggested that if TRAI feels that a limit is required, it should be more than the number of PS channels that are already existing and that the limit should also be flexible.

They had also called for similar caps to be placed on cable companies, for maintaining parity. TRAI’s recommendations, however, are only for DTH services.
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TRAI has also stated that the PS channels should offer “exclusive programs” and the same content shall not be permitted to be shared directly or indirectly with any other cable or DTH platform. Also, PS channels cannot include Doordarshan channels and registered TV channels or foreign TV channels that are not registered in India.

The regulator has made it clear that if finds same programme available on the PS of any other distribution platform, the Information and broadcasting ministry or the authority may issue direction to immediately stop the transmission of such programme. It further added that the ministry reserves the right for cancellation of registration of such PS of the DTH operator.

For every service, TRAI has recommended a one-time non-refundable registration fee of Rs 10,000 per PS channel. The proposal of registration fee was also opposed by the DTH operators, who are already paying entry fee, license fee and furnishing bank guarantees.

The authority has also advised DTH players to place all the PS channels in one category, under ‘Platform Services’ genre.
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The Information and Broadcasting ministry on July 2nd, 2019, has sent a letter to TRAI, seeking recommendations for inclusion of few issues regarding platform services with reference to DTH guidelines. TRAI issued a consultation paper on the same on August 28th, and an open house discussion was held on October 15th in Delhi, to seek the views of the stakeholders on various issues.
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