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Airtel flags concerns over broadcast content on unregistered platforms

Bharti Airtel has told regulator Trai that broadcasters are violating the downlinking policy by providing broadcast content to unregistered digital distribution platforms.

The telecom player’s submission to the watchdog is seen as an apparent reference to Jio TV showing IPL 2023 matches.

Bharti Airtel has said the delivery of the same broadcast on broadband through an app on large screen has created an anti-competitive environment and a non-level playing field for the regulated Distribution Platforms (DPOs).

“As per MIB’s downlinking policy, the broadcaster is under an obligation to provide services only through registered DPOs (such as DTH providers). By providing broadcast content to unregistered digital distribution platforms, the broadcasters are violating the downlinking policy which needs to be addressed by MIB (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) and Trai,” Airtel said.

An e-mail query sent to Reliance Jio did not elicit any immediate response.

According to Bharti Airtel, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) introduced the principle to ensure broadcasters provide content to all distribution platforms on a non-discriminatory basis.

“However, it becomes inapplicable in cases where the same broadcast content (as shown on registered distribution platforms) is being carried over broadband as a medium,” it said.

The company has also raised the issue of content being differently priced across two platforms like DTH and wireline or wireless broadband.

Star Sports is the official broadcaster of IPL 2023 matches and Viacom18, majorly owned by Reliance Industries Ltd, has rights for digital streaming.

JioCinema is streaming IPL matches for free on its platform.

Bharti Airtel has said the situation worsens if a single entity secures exclusive content and distribution rights of a popular broadcast programming and bundles it for its own subscribers.

Further, the telecom player has called for regulatory oversight in situations where content acquired may only be provided to its own customers on wired or wireless broadband and the rest of the subscriber universe will straightaway get excluded from having an opportunity to access such content.

Showing the same content at arbitrary pricing norms on a digital platform defeats Trai tariff regulations. Also, the fundamental principle and objective behind any regulatory framework is to create a non-discriminatory and a level-playing field for the sector’s overall growth, it noted.

“Furthermore, any regulatory framework needs to keep pace with the advancing technology and market dynamics.

“In this background, Airtel believes that there are specific regulatory interventions that are required, failing which there is a grave risk of market failure starting the regulated DPOs, and also detrimental impact on the consumer,” it said in the submission. PTI

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