Direct to Home (DTH) & Cable TV Operators are not in favour of allowing TV Channel Selection through Third Party Apps. In their submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the operators have voiced concerns Third party apps and consequent sharing of information using API between Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) & Subscribers / TV Viewers.
TRAI had issued draft (Second Amendment) to the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection (Addressable Systems) Regulations 2017 on 16th August, 2019. The aim behind the draft regulation is to provide customers the ease in channel selection and reduce TV viewing charges by optimising their subscription while allowing them to view channels of their interest.
DTH operators Dish TV, Tata Sky, and Bharti Telemedia have provided comments. On the cable side, Hathway Digital, DEN Networks, GTPL Hathway, and Siti Networks have made submissions.
In its submission, Dish TV stated that there is no need of a regulation for API application as there is no non-compliance on the part of the DTH Operators which invite the intervention by the authority for any corrective measures. It also submitted that there are issues like data confidentiality, security and misuse involved in allowing Third party developers (TPDs) to build channel selection apps.
The authority has not prescribed any framework for the operation of the proposed Third party developers (TPDs), no rules and regulation governing the services to be provided by them and there is no clarity regarding fixing their accountability and counter checks or corrective measure in case of any negligence/failure and technical constraints on their part to execute any command.
Tata Sky submitted that it strongly objects to TRAI’s adverse suggestion in its ‘Explanatory Memorandum’ that distribution platforms have no interest to provide consumer friendly options to customers as easy channel selection options clashes with their own vested interest. It further stated that third party App developers are unknown entities having no credibility and may well harbor dubious intentions. The fact that TRAI has ignored our previous inputs and still pushed ahead with this draft regulation makes it appear as a pre-determined exercise.
It also contended that there are two main concern of the ‘Channel Selection System API specification’ i.e
(a) Security of subscriber data.
(b) Third-party app’s suggestion of an optimum configuration of bouquets to subscribers.
Tata Sky also argued that allowing the Third party developers (TPDs) to suggest optimum configuration of channels/bouquet seriously undermines competition by encouraging choice in favour of certain selected channels/bouquets. TPD is being placed in a dominant position by being allowed to wield considerable influence in the choice of particular channels/bouquets offered by certain Distribution Platforms over others. Since TPD is not a service provider under the TRAI Act, TRAI will have no control over how the TPD optimizes channel/bouquet suggestion.
Bharti Telemedia has urged the TRAI to withdraw the Draft Regulation and formulate some guiding principles for DPO’s apps/websites to achieve the very purpose for which the Third party developers App is being envisaged. It further submitted that Third party developers App could infringe upon the privacy & data of users as they would have access to subscriber plans/ details across all/multiple Distribution Platforms. For any data leaks/misuse by the TPD, there is no clarity with respect to enforcement of any corrective/remedial action by TRAI or any other authority for lack of jurisdiction. It is not clear as to who assumes the responsibility/ liability for any breaches made by /through the Third party developers App.
Hathway Digital & DEN Networks have submitted that, all the national MSOs already have an app (either Mobile or on their website) developed for their subscribers to enable them to make a selection of their desired channels including addition & deletion of the channel from their Pack on similar line as has been suggested by the authority.
Hence, working on a Third party APP would be an exercise in futility, which they can utilise in upgrading their exiting APP to make it more robust or to modify it to be in full sync with the TRAI’s requirement. It further noted that the third party app might also risk leakage of subscriber information and may compromise with our subscriber data which would have a taxing effect on our businesses.
These MSOs also argued that the third-party app Developer company would be tempted to use such subscriber data to recover its cost of production by making the same available in the marketplace, thereby putting the subscribers at risk of being exploited by various service providers.
Hathway and DEN also apprehend that online aggregators will slowly gather a lot of subscriber data and can get into various suggestions or influences by way of digital marketing, calling etc to subscribers leading to circumventing the real choice being available to the Subscribers / TV Viewers, which TRAI intends to protect through this amendment.
GTL Hathway stated that using a third party App for channel selection process involves the integration of the systems of the DPOs and that of the third party App owners, which not only involves huge investment in terms of money but also considerable time for integration to achieve the result as expected by the Authority.
MSO Siti Networks has submitted that the requirement of the hour is to ensure that every player in the value chain is brought under the regulatory framework and a sustainable transparent audit and inspection mechanism is developed to ensure the compliance of the regulations for the benefit and ease of consumers at large and thereby providing level playing field to all the players.