TRAI reminds cable, DTH companies to remove multiple listing of channels

Even as the fight between sections of news channels restarts over the resumption of BARC television ratings, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has shot off a directive to cable and DTH operators to ensure that TV channels are listed only once, and only under one ‘genre’, on their set-top-boxes.

The directive comes in the context of allegations that some channels are paying extra money to DTH and cable operators to have their channels listed multiple times and under multiple categories, such as ‘news’ and ‘infotainment’ and ‘movies’ and ‘entertainment’.

Many broadcasters have alleged that this strategy, along with that of ‘landing page’ agreements, has been leveraged by certain channels — particularly news channels — to gain an unfair advantage over their rivals in their efforts to be in front of channel-surfing consumers.

In its latest directive, TRAI directed distributors to ensure that each channel was allocated only one ‘channel number’, and that channels of a particular genre, such as movies or sports, are displayed together consecutively in their electronic program guides or EPGs.

This followed an investigation launched in September last year following complaints. The regulator had asked all distributors to submit data on channel numbers and EPG listings.

“The Authority analysed the data received from multi system operators, in response to the said letter, and observed that some of the multi system operators have still failed to comply with the said provisions of regulation 18 of the Interconnection Regulations and regulation 38 of the QoS Regulations,” it noted in its directive today.

It therefore said it was issuing a new direction today asking all cable and DTH players to submit a compliance report within 15 days showing that “all the television channels of a particular language in a genre are displayed together consecutively in the electronic programme guide and one television channel appears at one place only.”

Broadcasters have been complaining to the authorities about ‘unfair’ trade practices of some of their compatriots.

Another frequent complaint has been that of the adulteration of sample data by broadcasters.

A police case looking into such allegations was followed by the Broadcast Audience Research Council or BARC suspending its ratings for news channels more than a year ago.

The government recently directed BARC to restart the ratings, given that many channels are unable to get their desired advertising rates in the absence of such consumption data.