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TRAI releases new interconnection regulations for broadcasting sector
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Telecom sector watchdog, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today released the Telecommunication (broadcasting and cable services) Interconnection (fifth amendment) Regulations, 2009, which essentially cover regulatory provisions on non-discriminatory access to content, issues relating to interconnection for addressable platforms and issues relating to registration of interconnection agreements.

TRAI had issued the Telecommunication (broadcasting and cable services) Interconnection Regulation 2004 (13 of 2004) on Dec. 10, 2004. These regulations were issued to cover arrangements among service providers for interconnection and revenue sharing for all broadcasting and cable services. These regulations have been amended from time to time to address various new issues.

Due to recent technological developments in the field of broadcasting and cable TV such as voluntary conditional access system (CAS) and entry of more direct to home (DTH) operators and also new emerging internet protocol television (IPTV) operators and HITS operators, new issues relating to interconnection have arisen. The authority is also committed to voluntary CAS scheme. In order to address these issues the Authority began a process of consultation by issuing a consultation paper on December 15, 2008 seeking comments of the stakeholders.

The main amendments made in the Interconnection Regulations are:

> The distributor of TV channels is barred from seeking signals in terms of `must provide` clause of the interconnect regulation from a broadcaster for those channels in respect of which carriage fee is being demanded by the distributor of TV channels.

> The distributor of TV channels may however charge a fee for placement of the channel of a broadcaster vis-à-vis channels of other broadcasters on its distribution platform.

> Introduction and roll out of voluntary CAS has been facilitated by making it mandatory for all Broadcasters to have Reference Interconnect Offers for all addressable systems. Further, minimum technical specifications for addressable systems have been specified.

> Terms and conditions which should compulsorily form part of a Reference Interconnect Offer for DTH or any other addressable system, such as Voluntary CAS, IPTV, HITS etc., have been prescribed.

> The distributors of TV channels employing addressable systems have been enabled to provide their services to commercial subscribers.

> It has been made mandatory for all interconnect agreements to be reduced to writing.

It is expected that these amendments to the existing interconnection regulations will go a long way in facilitating access to content on non-discriminatory terms for distributors of TV channels deploying addressable platforms, which will in turn lead to greater competition between the various pay TV delivery platforms, bringing considerable benefit to the consumers.

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