The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has sent its recommendations to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting on certain issues relating to Direct to Home (DTH) service last month. A consultation process was earlier initiated by the Authority by issue of a Consultation Paper on “Issues Relating to DTH” on March 2, 2007. The consultation paper covered interconnection issues, quality of service issues and other regulatory issues relating to DTH services. The Authority subsequently held an open house discussion in Bhubaneswar on May 18, 2007 on the subject. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had also sought recommendations of the Authority on Technical Interoperability of Set-top Boxes (STB) as well as to examine the possibility of allowing DTH operators to provide signals to cable operators in KU-Band. Accordingly, the Authority has communicated its recommendations as follows:
(i) Since MPEG-4 compression technology in replying MPEG-2, BIS should asked to revise the Set-Top-Box standards. The new standards should be applicable six months from the date of revision of these standards.
(ii) Replacing of MPEG-2 Set-Top-Boxes of consumers of the existing DTH Operators in left to the Operator. The MPEG-2 & TBs will not function on MEPG-4 DTH plateforms.
(iii) The second issue relates to allowing DTH operators to provide signals to Cable Operators in KU Band. The existing DTH license conditions permit DTH operators to provide signals in KU band only to consumers directly without any other intermediary. It was, therefore, felt that it is necessary to maintain a clear distinction between DTH and HITS, and this distinction would have been blurred if DTH was also allowed to offer KU band signals to cable operators. Therefore, the Authority has recommended that DTH should continue to supply signals only to the consumers directly and not to any other intermediary. At the same time, in order to maintain level playing field with HITS operators who may use both C band and Ku band for transmission, the Authority's recommendation is that the DTH operators should also be permitted band neutrality and should be allowed to operate in both the bands by amending the DTH guidelines. Further, the Authority has also examined clause 7.6 of the DTH license conditions which reads as follows:- “7.6 The Licensee shall provide access to various content providers/channels on a non-discriminatory basis.”
This clause is mistaken by some stakeholders to mean “must carry”, i.e., the DTH operators must carry all the channels in a non-discriminatory manner when so approached by broadcasters. However, Hon'ble TDSAT in its order dated 31.3.2007 in petition no. 189 (C) of 2006 (M/s. Tata Sky Ltd. v/s. M/s. Zee Turner Ltd. & ors.) has held that clause 7.6 of the DTH license agreement does not imply 'must carry'. The Authority has noted that the aforementioned judgment of TDSAT has clarified the position in this regard and no purpose will be served by amendment of the clause 7.6 of the DTH license conditions. The Authority is further of the view that the market forces and competition will ensure that the DTH platforms will select the channels in a non-discriminatory manner. The DTH operators should select the channels in a fair and equitable manner, which would enable various content providers to negotiate constructively. Accordingly, no amendment in clause 7.6 of the DTH license conditions has been recommended. It is expected that these recommendations on DTH will further protect the interests of consumers, while leading to a healthy competition among the DTH operators as well as with other delivery platforms.