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CASBAA: Indian TV regulations threaten investment

CASBAA, the Association of Asia’s pay-TV Industry, has applauded the judicial review now underway in India of proposed extension and tightening of India’s pay-TV rate regulations.

The Madras High Court is currently reviewing the clash between the rights of copyright owners around the world and new tariff regulations proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The court has ordered the TRAI not to give effect to the rules until the underlying issues are considered, with a hearing now set for January 19th.

CASBAA CEO Christopher Slaughter observed that the new rules would be a major negative factor for the business environment in the $17 billion Indian media industry.  “India’s pay-TV regulations have long been among the strictest in the world”, he said. “The proposed new rules are highly intrusive and would make the environment much worse.   Such a heavy-handed regulatory regime will inevitably hit foreign companies’ interest in investing in India.”

Indian law gives copyright owners the ability to price and sell their creative works. In filing the Madras suit, the petitioner broadcasting organisations denounced the TRAI regulation as contrary to these principles as enshrined in the law, and in international treaties to which India is a signatory.  (The TRAI rules would establish a controlled price regime by mandating a la carte channel supply, setting the ceiling, by specific genres, that broadcasting organisations can charge to multichannel programme distributors, limiting discounts, prescribing carriage fees, and stipulating a compulsory distribution fee to be paid by Broadcasting Organisations to multichannel programme distributors.

CASBAA has long expressed concern about India’s previous rate regulations, which included a cable retail price freeze imposed in 2004 “until the market became more competitive” and never revoked.

“Today, India’s television content market is among the most competitive in the world,” said Slaughter. “Modern cable MSOs, six different DTH platforms and now online OTT television are all giving Indian consumers a wide range of viewing options.”

CASBAA’s Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros observed that “As convergence and greater competition sweep the TV economy, other governments around the world are eliminating rate controls, to give more scope to competition among traditional and new online providers. In the last few years, Korea and Taiwan have both undertaken to liberalise their pay-TV price controls, leaving India as the last market economy in Asia with a hyper-regulatory regime.   The proposed new rules would take India in the opposite direction from the rest of the world.”

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