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The broadcasters said the interconnection agreements with various distribution platform operators should not be made public.  Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
The broadcasters said the interconnection agreements with various distribution platform operators should not be made public. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Broadcasters and Trai battle over transparency

The broadcasters expressed concern over disclosing sensitive commercial information

New Delhi: Television broadcasters on Wednesday pushed for keeping their contracts with channel distributors under wraps, while the sector regulator and cable operators argued for their public disclosure in the interests of transparency.

At an open house discussion organized by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the broadcasters expressed concern over disclosing sensitive commercial information. They said the interconnection agreements with various distribution platform operators (DPOs) should not be made public. The agreements include the deal structure between the parties, discounts given and prices of the TV channels.

Trai had issued a consultation paper on 4 May inviting comments and counter-comments from all the stakeholders on the interconnection agreement framework and the availability of these agreements in public domain to ensure transparency. Trai invited comments from direct-to-home (DTH) operators, headend-in-the-sky (HITS) operators, internet protocol television (IPTV) operators, multi-system operators (MSO), local cable operators and subscribers.

Currently, broadcasters are required to share details of all the contractual agreements with the regulator on an annual basis. DPOs obtain TV channels from the broadcasters and offer these to the consumers either directly— DTH and IPTV—or through cable operators.

According to Trai, there are seven DTH operators, two HITS operators, two IPTV operators, 700 multi-system operators (MSOs) and 60,000 cable operators in India.

“It won’t be a good idea to share the confidential commercial information in public domain," said a representative of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), adding broadcasters already submit contract details with the authority annually.

Broadcasters further added that the regulator should look into the interconnection framework if and when there is a complaint of discrimination, instead of making all the agreements public.

However, cable operators emphasized that interconnection agreements should be available to subscribers and consumers if the regulator wants to ensure transparency and level-playing field in the sector. “There should be no confidentiality in a deal that affects the consumers and crores of subscribers. The channel prices should be made public. It is in consumer interest," said Roop Sharma, president, Cable Operators Federation of India.

Trai chairman R.S. Sharma agreed with cable operators, saying such confidentiality comes in conflict with bringing transparency in the sector.

“Why should the authority become a gatekeeper of the information? Let the entire world see what’s happening," said Sharma, adding that if the agreements are not disclosed in the name of privacy, then the regulator will not be able to ensure non-discrimination in the sector.

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