Cable Operators complain against Broadcasters for violation of Downlinking Guidelines

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Two Cable operator bodies have made a complaint to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) against 5 prominent broadcasters on their alleged violation of policy guidelines for downlinking of television channels. They also brought to the notice of the Ministry that the said broadcasters are illegally distributing their content without MHA security clearance.
Cable Operators Welfare Federation (India) and the Society of Maharashtra Cable Operators Foundation have sent a legal notice to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting against 5 Broadcasting companies, namely Star India, Zee Entertainment Enterprises. Sony Pictures Network, Viacom 18 Media and Warner Media India.
The complainants have brought to the notice of the MIB that the said broadcasters have “blatantly violated provisions of Cable Television Networks (Regulations) Act, 1995 and Policy Guidelines for downlinking of television channels by retransmitting the downlinked channels to the ultimate subscribers without even obtaining registration under Cable Television Networks (Regulations) Act, 1995.”
They said that “the transmission of channels to the ultimate consumer can be done only in accordance with Cable Television Network (Regulations) Act, 1995 and therefore, all the requirements of DAS License has to be fulfilled in order to distribute signals of channels to the ultimate subscribers.”
According to the Cable Operator bodies, these broadcasters are transmitting the content of their channels to the ultimate subscribers illegally through self-owned OTT platforms. They mentioned Zee5 of Zee entertainment Enterprises, SonyLiv of Sony Pictures Networks India, Disney Hotstar of Star India and Voot of Viacom 18 Media are being transmitted without an MSO registration.
The LCOs have also brought to the notice of the MIB that “these broadcasters are regularly increasing the prices of the channels for the DPOs and the subscribers and subsequently, selling the subscriptions of their respective pay channels on their applications at a very cheap price”. It was also mentioned that they have bypassed the applicability of Tariff Order by not obtaining the MSO registration for distributing the pay channel content. The complainants have submitted the list of channels provided by these broadcasters through OTT and the prices offered in comparison with the RIO prices offered to the MSOs.
“While the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017 defines “distributor of television channels” or “distributor” means any DTH operator, multi-system operator, HITS operator or IPTV operator, the broadcasters have blatantly violated this and are distributing signals directly to the consumers” the complainants claimed.
They said that the Cable TV and Broadcasting industry is suffering grave injury due to non- level playing field created by these Companies by bypassing the laws of the land. They have brought to the notice of the MIB that many of their subscribers have migrated to OTT platforms created by the Broadcasters. They also said that the said Broadcasters are blatantly violating the said Tariff Orders by distributing the same content at a far less price and not providing the same content to MSOs/LCOs at the same prices. “Besides, the said Broadcasters are using their same LOGO as is used by the Broadcasters on their respective Television channels” they argued.
On one side, the MSOs/LCOs are providing the services as per Tariff Orders which prices are much higher in comparison with these Applications and on the other hand, these Broadcasters are taking over the subscribers of MSOs/LCOs by luring them with cheap pricing and granting the rights to watch the content anywhere and anytime. Pertinently, one annual subscription of any OTT package gives permission to more than one device to watch their respective contents/channels.
Under these circumstances, the Cable Operator associations have requested the Ministry to take cognizance of the offences committed by the above named Company ‘A to E’ and take necessary action in accordance with the law on an immediate basis.

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