Wednesday, 24 September 2014

TRAI Open House on Platform services hijacked by LCOs

TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar and his officers abandoned the Open House Discussion on regulating the Platform Services in distribution networks, being held at BSNL Office in New Delhi today.  
TRAI had organised an open house discussion as a concluding part of its consultation on regulating the platform services which include local video channels run by cable operators and MSOs at BSNL corporate office in New Delhi today. The conference hall was full of cable operators who had come from many North Indian states and did not let TRAI start the proceedings till it heard their grievances. Operators expressed their annoyance at TRAI’s attitude towards them and refusal to listen to their complaints in every such open house discussion in the past. Generally open house discussions are dominated by the lawyers and executives of broadcasters, MSOs and DTH companies who keep talking in English which operators do not understand. The LCOs have alleged that by the time it is their turn to speak, officer in the chair closes the discussion due to shortage of time. 

As two phases of Digitisation are over and third and fourth phase is going on, operators are feeling that they have been let down by the Government and TRAI who are going allout in helping the large broadcast companies already having monopolies in the market and doing nothing to secure their business which they expected post digitization. Today Many operators had come from outside Delhi from towns like Amritsar and Bhatinda from Punjab, Ahmedabad and Rajkot from Gujarat, Lucknow and Gorakhpur from Uttar Pradesh and also there were many local associations from Delhi. Bhai Surjit of Sai Cable Association of Delhi and Anil Upadhaya from Lucknow initiated the discussion requesting the TRAI Chairman to first resolve their basic problems that were forcing them out of their business rather than talk about the platform services.
The discussion turned into arguments and TRAI chairman threatened to leave if Cable Operators didn’t stop speaking. However, Cable Operators were adamant that their grievances must be heard first as they were on the verge of committing suicide. They said that the regulations had already destroyed their business through MSOs and pay broadcasters and under such a scenario, who would want to start a video channel. In any case, LCOs cannot have their video channels in DAS areas where regulations allow only MSOs to run them.  Anil Upadhyay said that livelihood of about 1.5 lakh cable operators and another 20 lakh people working in their networks was in danger and TRAI was not doing anything to take up their issues. As the discussion became noisy, TRAI officials left the stage amidst cable operators shouting slogans against them. 
Operators waited for the officials to return and resume the discussion but it didn’t happen. Operators who had come from outside Delhi were very angry and all of them including those from Delhi went to Barakhamba Police Station in a procession and lodged a complaint against TRAI Chairman and other officials. 
Even in Kolkata, Bangalore and Mumbai where TRAI held discussions with the stake holders on this issue, it faced similar protests but didn’t stage to walk out. In these places operators gave their memorandums to TRAI chairman requesting him to look into their problems that were caused by faulty regulations of mandatory digitisation driving them out of their business. 

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