On November 30, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued guidelines for platform services offered by multi-system operators. The Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, permit Multi-System Operators (MSOs) to transmit their own programming service, either directly to their own subscribers or through one or more local cable operators. Additionally, the own programming services referred to as ‘Platform Services (PS)’, which includes most ‘local-channels’, are exclusive programming services being generated at the local level offered by MSOs, the issue stated.
MSOs have been granted a period of 12 months to comply with these guidelines.
Furthermore, in accordance with Rule 6(6) of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, the Ministry has issued the guidelines in respect of platform services provided by MSOs in India. These guidelines provide the definition for the ‘platform services’ and lay down the norms for the MSOs in running the platform services which inter-alia includes the following.
According to the guidelines issued, a simple online registration process for PS channels by MSOs is at a nominal fee of Rs 1,000 per PS channel. The online registration portal for this purpose is under preparation and shall be notified shortly, the guidelines added. Moreover, only entities registered as ‘Companies’ are allowed to provide local news and current affairs. MSOs that are not registered as ‘company’ and want to provide local news and current affairs are mandatorily required to apply within three months with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to convert into ‘company’.
Furthermore, the guidelines stated that the total number of permitted PS channels per operator is to be capped at five percent of the total channel carriage capacity. In addition, in order to cater to the need of the local language and culture of subscribers, this cap on PS channels shall be computed at the State/Union Territory level. Moreover, two PS channels shall be permitted at the level of each district to cater to the need for local content at the district level.
The guidelines also added that all PS channels have to carry a caption as ‘Platform Services’ to distinguish themselves from the registered TV channels. The content of the PS is to be exclusive to the platform and is not to be shared directly or indirectly with any other distribution platform operators. However, sharing of live feeds from religious places such as Temples, Gurudwaras, among others. shall be permitted.
Moreover, all PS channels are to be placed together under the genre of ‘Platform Services’ in the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) along with their Maximum Retail Price (MRP) and option for activation/de-activation of PS as per the applicable orders/directions/regulation(s) of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). In addition, the guidelines have also stated that MSOs offering PS have to retain the recording of all PS channel programs for a period of 90 days. Any content-related-complaint shall be examined by the authorised officer prescribed under the CTN Act, 1995, and the State/ District Monitoring Committee, it added.
Under the aforementioned guidelines, cable operators are granted registration for the distribution of Registered TV Channels. The above guidelines have been issued to ensure that the network capacity of cable operators is utilised primarily for the same. Moreover, sufficient provisions have been made in the guidelines for MSOs to cater to the demand for local content by their subscribers, it added. Further, these guidelines mandate the adherence to Programme Code and Advertisement Code with respect to content on PS channels, keeping a recording for 90 days, and more, and shall help in combating the menace of piracy.