TRAI Seeks Views On Carriage Fee, Interconnection Regulations

After receiving representations from regional broadcasters about high carriage fees, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Wednesday floated a consultation paper to review provisions of the interconnection regulations.

Interconnection regulations govern commercial and technical agreements between broadcasters and distribution platform operators (DPOs).

In it its consultation paper, TRAI has sought views from stakeholders on various key issues such as whether there is a need to cap carriage fee a broadcaster pays to distribution platforms and how the cost of carrying a channel should be determined for Multi System Operators (MSOs) and Direct-to-Home (DTH) platforms. Under the regulations, DPOs are free to declare their target markets, which define the coverage area of their distribution network in terms of the number of States or pan India. Based on the declared target market, they ascertain the carriage fee broadcasters need to pay them to carry their channels.

Target market

The regulator pointed out that some DPOs have declared multiple States or the entire country as their target market. “Regional channels have a clear strategy to create content suited to certain regional markets. Due to the mismatch of the channel’s focus on a regional market and carriage fee payment on the basis of the national market, such regional channels are required to pay a very high carriage fee,” said the regulator.

TRAI said this puts undesired financial burden on regional broadcasters. “It also makes them prone to undue arm-twisting by the distributors, as their subscription continues to remain lower than the minimum prescribed threshold of five percent, which is the limit under which a DPO is not mandated to carry any channel,” the regulator added. In the consultation paper, the regulator has also sought views on other issues such as whether there should be a well defined framework for regulating the Interconnection Agreement for placement and whether the placement fee should be regulated.

The DPOs are required to display all the channels on their electronic programme guide.

The regulator said that “The placement agreement, marketing agreements or any other technical or commercial arrangements between broadcasters and Distributors (apart from RIO based agreements) are in forbearance.”

But TRAI added that it has received several complaints from various broadcasters “whereby it is being alleged that some DPOs are resorting to pushing for marketing/placement/promotion agreement, by exploiting the available forbearance.”―The Hindu Business Line

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