TRAI recommended that programmes transmitted by the direct-to-home (DTH) operators or multiple system operators (MSOs) or Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) operators as a platform service shall be exclusive and the same shall not be permitted to be shared directly or indirectly with any other distribution platform operator (DPO).
"Incase the same programme is found available on the platform service of any other DPO, MIB/TRAI may issue directions to immediately stop the transmission of such a programme. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) also reserves the right for cancellation of registration of such platform service of the DTH operator/MSOs/IPTV operator," TRAI said in its recommendations document on February 2.
An MSO is an authorised service provider, providing cable television services to its subscribers. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) accepted the ministry's view that anybody registered as a DPO, either with the MIB or with a post office, shall be eligible to carry platform service channels, provided that the ministry is able to specify compliance structure to ensure that those providing the service make full disclosure on ownership status and comply to the programme and advertising codes.
"Further, the authority recommends that any person/entity desirous of providing local news and current affairs as platform service, or is already providing such services, must be incorporated as a company under the Indian Companies Act, 2013," TRAI said. As per its recommendations, a maximum of 15 platform service channels may be offered by multi-system operators, IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) operators.
TRAI had on December 7 issued a consultation paper seeking views and comments on the regulatory framework recommended for DTH services. The written response was sought from stakeholders on the consultation paper till December 19, 2020, and counter comments till December 26, 2020.
TRAI had first issued recommendations on "Regulatory Framework for Platform Services" for DTH and multi-system operators services in 2014, which were referred back by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in October last year. In its recent recommendations, TRAI said it agrees with the views of the ministry that the DTH/MSOs/IPTV operators shall provide an option to activate/deactivate platform services as prescribed in the orders/ directions/regulations issued by TRAI from time-to-time.
"The platform services channels shall be categorised under the genre 'Platform Services' in the Electronic Programmable Guide (EPG) subject to orders/directions/regulations issued by TRAI from time-to-time. The respective maximum retail price (MRP) of the platform service shall be displayed in the EPG against each platform service subject to orders/directions/regulations issued by TRAI from time-to-time. "A provision for putting a caption as 'Platform Services' may be required to distinguish the platform services from the linear channels. The government may decide the caption in a size which is visually readable by consumers," TRAI said. TRAI agreed that the ministry will obtain security clearance of all MSOs, who wish to offer platform services and were not security cleared at the time of registration, while they run their PS. "However, if at any time before the MIB obtains the security clearance, it is determined that the programming service offered on PS which has been registered on the online system is inimical to India's national security or to the public interest, the MIB may require the MSO to withdraw from distribution of the PS channel or the programming service and/or cancel the registration," the authority said.
Further, TRAI recommended that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry may establish a procedure to review the security clearance of all DPOs (who are offering platform service), including those wherever there is any change in their ownership/control. The I&B Ministry may obtain requisite undertaking from the DPOs at the time of granting permission for offering platform service. "After considering all comments received from stakeholders during the consultation process and further analysis of the issues, the authority has finalised its recommendations," TRAI said.