Broadcasters must provide information to TRAI on how to deliver linear channels to OTT

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has ordered broadcasters Star India, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and Sun TV Network to provide information to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regarding the mode retransmission of linear channels on more than the best platforms (OTT).

According to sources, the court ordered the three broadcasters to submit information to the TRAI within a week. The regulator had asked broadcasters to provide a detailed architecture indicating the media used to deliver linear content on their own streaming platforms as well as third-party streaming platforms.

While adjourning the case to December 7, the court said the request to suspend TRAI’s letter asking broadcasters to provide information would be heard at the next court date.

TRAI argued that broadcasters provide linear channel signals to OTT platforms by circumventing clause 5.6 of the uplink and downlink guidelines. TDSAT noted that this is the basis on which TRAI seeks information from broadcasters.

Clause 5.6 of the Policy Guidelines for Downlink TV Channels dated 5.12.2011 states that a broadcaster shall only provide set-top boxes for receiving signals from satellite TV channels to registered MSOs/cable operators , DTH carriers, Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service providers and HITS carriers. .

According to sources, the court held that OTT platforms cannot circumvent any law and that TRAI has the power under clause 5.6 to request details from broadcasters since there is a direct link between the information sought by the authority and clause 5.6 of the policy guidelines.

In December 2021, TDSAT ordered TRAI not to take enforcement action against broadcasters for failing to provide information relating to how linear channels are retransmitted on OTT platforms.

While granting interim relief to the broadcasters, the court had also asked the TRAI to conduct its own proceedings to determine whether the broadcasters breached clause 5.6 of the downlink guidelines. As OTT is unregulated, according to TRAI’s own submission, the court noted that TRAI cannot request this information.

Broadcasters have argued that OTT is outside the scope of regulation, whether or not they are broadcasters. The broadcasters also claim that they do not use satellites or any other existing infrastructure regulated by the TRAI.

TRAI, for its part, said it sent letters to broadcasters in their capacity as broadcasters and not as OTT platforms. TRAI also claimed that they have the right to request information from broadcasters. He further stated that the information was requested to determine whether or not there is a breach of clause 5.6.

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