IN a move that is bound to ruffle feathers of many political parties from the Akali Dal in Punjab to the DMK in Tamil Nadu the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has decided to cap at 50 per cent the market share of multi-system operators (MSO) engaged in cable TV distribution.
“We received recommendations from TRAI. An inter-ministerial committee considered and accepted the recommendations. A policy architecture is now in the works,” I&B Minister Manish Tewari said.
The inter-ministerial committee has representatives of the law and home ministries, among others.
The MSOs, having direct or indirect connections to political parties or leaders, have come to monopolise cable television distribution in several states. Many MSOs have been accused of indulging in unfair practices — the most common being blacking out channels and content that goes against their political masters.
TRAI has observed that Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Orissa, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are dominated by a single MSO. Such “monopolies in the TV channel distribution market are not in the best interest of consumers and may have serious implications in terms of competition, pricing, quality of service and growth of the TV channel distribution market”, it said. Fastway Transmissions, which has come to almost monopolise cable TV distribution in Punjab, has been known to be controlled by the Akalis. Sumangali Cable Vision, an MSO associated with the DMK, has done the same in Tamil Nadu.
In its recommendations on ‘monopoly/market dominance in cable TV services” in November 2013, TRAI cited a case of “denial of market access” that was brought to the notice of Competition Commission of India in 2011 “when a broadcaster alleged that a group of MSOs operating in Punjab acquired substantial market share in cable TV distribution and denied access to its channel”.