Trai may allow exclusive channels on DTH

BS Reporter / New Delhi March 06, 2007

In a move which may allow direct-to-home (DTH) service providers to beam exclusive channels, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has sought a review of the existing policy, which bars such channels on DTH platforms.

Trai, in its consultation paper released today, has sought suggestions from stakeholders on this.

If allowed, broadcasters like Star TV could bring in many of their premium offerings, including BSkyB, its premium movie channels and Fox News on its own platform, TataSky (a JV with the Tatas).

Trai has also asked for suggestions on the need for interoperability of DTH set-top boxes. This means that the set-top box provided by one service provider can be used to view channels of another service provider.

It has, however, made it clear that there is enough competition and there is no need for any price regulation at the moment.

On carriage fees, Trai has expressed concern that the limited capacity of DTH platform could make carriage fees the determining factor for access to the platform. It has asked stakeholders for a response on this. It has also sought response on inter-connection agreements, which means the conditons on which DTH service providers include a channel on their platform.

Citing the current arrangements on inter-connection, Trai has said that broadcasters have entered into long-term agreements (two to nine years) with the DTH players.

“These agreements are generally in respect of distribution rights for residential viewing purposes for individual homes and do not cover commercial subscribers. Trai suggests a choice between a standard inter-connection agreement and a reference interconnect offer (RIO),” it has said.

In standard inter-connection agreements, Trai will lay down the terms and conditions for both broadcasters and the DTH service providers. In RIO, the DTH players will specify the terms and conditions for entering into inter-connection agreements with broadcasters and other service providers.

The two DTH players are divided on this. While Dish TV officials favour standard inter-connection agreements, Tata Sky is in favour of a reference inter-connect offer.

Trai, however, will not regulate pricing of individual channels