MIB on ‘fastway’ to cleanse systems: Seeks TRAI view to avoid MSO/LCO monopolies

14 Dec,2012

By A Correspondent


The Manish Tewari-led information and broadcasting ministry appears to be on a fast track to check on monopolistic practices in the cable business. And in the process, the heat is on Punjab’s Fastway Transmission which has a near-monopoly in the State and has strong linkages with the Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.


After asking TRAI to offer its views on government-ownership in broadcast, the ministry has sought views of the TRAI on the measures to prevent monopolistic operations by MSOs and LCOs. It has requested TRAI to provide its recommendations under Section 11 (1) (a) on the following:


“In order to ensure fair competition, improved quality of service, and equity, should any restriction be imposed on MSOs/LCOs to prevent monopolies/accumulation of interest? If yes, what restrictions should be imposed and what should be the form, nature and scope of such restrictions?


Accordingly, amendments required in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) 1995 Act and Rules framed there under may also be suggested.”


Multi System Operators (MSOs) and Local Cable Operators (LCOs) are required to be registered with local Post Offices to be able to operate in the permitted areas of registration, adds a communique from the ministry. However as per recent amendments in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Rules 2012, it has become mandatory for MSOs to get registration from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to operate in those areas which are notified for analogue switch off.


The communique further adds that it has been observed that the cable TV distribution is virtually monopolized in some States as operation of the entire cable TV network is dominated by a single entity in that State. At present, there are no restrictions on the issue of accumulation of interest in terms of market share in a City, District, State or country by individual MSOs and LCOs in the Cable Sector. MSOs and LCOs are free to operate in any area(s) of their choice after obtaining registration from the Ministry. It is felt that such monopolies may not be in the interest of consumers and may have serious implications in terms of competition, pricing and healthy growth of cable TV sector in that market.


Earlier, the Ministry had made a reference to TRAI on May 16, 2012 to examine and recommend measures to address issues of cross-media restrictions and safeguards. With this reference, the issues of monopolies in the broadcasting sector in the most comprehensive sense is set to get addressed by TRAI.


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