The digital cable industry has batted for renewal of registrations of Multi System Operators (MSOs) for a period of ten years to maintain a level playing field with the Direct-to-Home (DTH) sector.
Multi-System Operators (MSOSs) are entities that receive programme content signals from broadcasters and then re-transmit it to consumers either through local cable operators or directly.
In response to a consultation paper released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) said that the registration of all MSOs, which are in compliance with regulations, should be renewed for a period of ten years as they make substantial investments in setting up infrastructure in terms of digital head-ends and subscriber management systems among others.
“A longer licence duration for a period of ten years will incentivise their investments and provide certainty for expanding and upgrading their respective network infrastructure. To ensure parity amongst the Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs), the licence issued to MSOs should also be renewed and remain valid for a period of ten years,” the industry association added.
TRAI in July had floated a consultation paper to seek industry views on issues relating to the renewal process of MSO registrations. This was done after the Information & Broadcasting Ministry sought recommendations from TRAI on the issue. While the Ministry grants registration for a period of ten years to MSOs, there is no provision in the Cable TV Rules for renewal or extension once the initial registration period expires. As of March, there are 1,762 registered MSOs in the country as per the data available with the Ministry.
One of the leading MSOs, DEN Networks also submitted that the period of extension should be ten years after expiry of the initial period of permission of MSO registration. It added that this will bring “uniformity in registration and renewal regime for all stakeholders of the industry.”
Review mechanism needed
Industry players in their submissions also pointed out that while 1,762 MSOs have been granted registrations, only about 900 MSOs are currently operational and that the authority should look at a review mechanism to check on the actual number of MSOs who are conducting their business in compliance with the regulatory framework.
Referring to the norms regarding mandatory provisions of compliance and subscription audit, AIDCF stated that only 250-300 MSOs per year have been audited. It added that this disrupts the level-playing field as there are certain MSOs who are being allowed, not only to “operate but also to flourish without even complying with the fundamental requirements. Some of these non-compliant MSOs are indulging in the illegal act of piracy and are operating and flourishing at the cost of the compliant MSOs,” the industry body stated, adding that registration of such non-compliant MSOs should be terminated. The Hindu BusinessLine