Amidst a major pushback from stakeholders, especially cable operators, against TRAI’s NTO 2.0 implementation and demand for regulating prices of OTT platforms, the regulator has said its tariff regime is not applicable on streamers.
Considering the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) doesn’t grant any formal permission or license to streamers, “tariff orders issued by TRAI are not applicable to OTT platforms”, the regulator said in reply to a right to information (RTI) query.
Further explaining the rationale behind OTT platforms’ pricing being outside the purview of the TRAI, it said the tariff order of 2017 are applicable on “service providers, licensed/permitted by MIB”, which grants permission/ license to MSOs, DTH, IPTV and HITS operators for operating broadcasting and cable services. But MIB doesn’t grant a formal license to OTT platforms, which makes them ineligible to be regulated under the tariff order.
The RTI query was filed by D. Arumugam, a cable operator from the southern State of Tamil Nadu for providing information under the RTI Act, 2005 regarding OTT services, platforms and other related matters.
Several cable operators industry organisations – and also DTH ops like Tata Sky — have been lobbying for regulating prices of OTT platforms as an economically unregulated digital space helps consumers to look for alternatives to cable TV, where the prices are regulated by TRAI.
Recently, while lobbying against implementation of NTO 2.0, Cable Operators United Front (COUF) had said in a letter to TRAI, MIB and the Prime Minister’s Office that cable TV has been continuously losing subscribers for the last few years with the consumers “shifting to OTT platforms”, especially as “OTT platforms (prices) are unregulated, which is proving to be disastrous for the cable operators”.
“Hence, we request your kind office to take immediate steps to regulate the OTT platform(s), including price capping as in the case of cable TV, besides issuing instructions to broadcasters to stop providing ‘pay’ channels to DD Free Dish, and to maintain parity and level playing field by pricing the channels at same price for all platforms,” the letter had pointed out.
Subsequent to such demands, TRAI had offered to form a committee on NTO 2.0 implementation with participation from LCOs, MSOs and DTH operators to iron out the wrinkles in the tariff regime.