OTT and digital platforms must be regulated to prevent future discriminatory practices, say experts


Bharti Telemedia has raised concerns over the possibility of entities such as Reliance Jio becoming gatekeepers for broadcast content since its parent group has control over content, OTT and telecom pipe. 

As part of their submissions to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Bharti Telemedia noted that despite OTT platforms fast becoming the primary source of content consumption, they are still not governed under TRAI’s Interconnect regulation. 

Under the interconnect regulation, broadcasters must provide live TV to cable, DTH and MSO operators in a non-discriminatory manner. OTT platforms are not governed under such a regulation.

As per Bharti Telemedia’s note to TRAI, a situation can be anticipated, whereby, if a vertically integrated player secures an exclusive deal for such broadcast content and bundles it for its own subscribers, the rest of the subscriber universe will straightaway get excluded from having the opportunity to access such content on other distribution platforms.

Need for a mandate

To avoid such exclusionary behaviour, there must be a mandate to follow “Must provide” and this rule needs to be extended to OTT and digital platforms, as per the note.

A senior industry executive, who did not want his named disclosed, told BusinessLine that as the proliferation of entertainment through the internet becomes more widespread, entities which have businesses across verticals—from content to OTT to telecom businesses—could potentially air certain pieces of content to their subscribers who have their telecom network in the back end, exclusively or at a cheaper rate. Reliance is the sole company with such cross vertical holdings.  

This means that Reliance Jio, whose parent company RIL has a media company Viacom18, could potentially provide certain pieces of content exclusively or at a differentiated price for their wireless or fixed line broadband subscribers.

With the acquisition of the digital rights of prime sports property, the Indian Premier League, and with the clear cross-business gains that this acquisition could bring for RIL, this could be a real possibility as per the source. 

Another expert noted that this might not be in violation of India’s net neutrality regulations. “Though TRAI’s net neutrality regulations prevent operators from offering differentiated rates for accessing different content (by the operator tying up with the content player), it has not prevented the operator from offering its own content in itsintranet at a differentiated rate (even free),” the expert said.

Published on

July 16, 2022

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