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DTH for commercial subscribers too
New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Tuesday allowed direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting operators to offer their services to commercial subscribers, according to its new interconnection regulation.

So far, DTH was being permitted only for residential users.

The authority has "prohibited the broadcasters from, directly or indirectly, compelling any DTH operator not to make available its direct to home service to any class of subscribers including commercial subscribers".

But, to protect the broadcasters' interest, a different Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) can be made for supply of signals by DTH operators to specified commercial subscribers, the regulator pointed out.

Also, distributors of television channels have been barred from asking for signals from broadcasters under the `must provide' clause for channels for which they are charging a carriage fee, according to the latest interconnection regulations set by Trai. The distributors can, however, charge a fee for placement of channels.

Distributors would include multi-system operators (MSOs), DTH players, IPTV (internet protocol TV) firms and HITS (headend in the sky) platforms.

The authority has decided against any regulation on carriage fee.

"Carriage fee is a market-driven phenomenon and the levels of carriage fee are determined by play of market forces."

It has added that "payment of carriage fee ultimately gets recovered from the advertisers on TV channels by way of higher advertisement charges."

According to Trai, if some kind of ceiling is laid down for carriage fee, then there is a possibility that more channels may be willing to pay the maximum permissible carriage fee than the number of available channel slots. "Selection of which channels to carry in such a situation would again result in covert deals," the authority noted.

However, the authority has amended the existing regulation on `must provide' for those channels in respect of which any fee is being demanded by the distributor of TV channels from a broadcaster for carriage on its distribution platform.

This has been done to ensure that the broadcasters are not forced to supply their channel in terms of 'must provide' clause and at the same time forced to pay carriage fee for the same channel.

However, this amendment does not prevent the distributor of TV channels from charging a fee for placement of the channel of a broadcaster vis-à-vis channels of other broadcasters on its distribution platform, in case the broadcaster wants the channel to be placed at a particular frequency spot.

On packaging of channels, DTH operators and other addressable platforms would have complete flexibility. On imposing pricing restrictions on channels, the authority is of the view that this is a commercial issue to be settled mutually by the broadcasters and distributors of TV channels.

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