Carriage or content?
Internet service providers (ISPs) may get to offer television content soon, but there is uncertainty over who will regulate them, though the government appears to be separating regulation of content from carriage.
The Department of Telecommunications has accepted the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s recommendation that ISPs may be allowed to provide Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) service, provided they follow broadcast regulations.
But in a turf war, content providers are locking horns with telecom service providers, who are charging what content service firms see as hefty fees of up to Rs. 100,000 per channel on IPTV.
The reality is that there are no clear regulatory guidelines for IPTV services in themselves. While video content can be a part of Internet traffic, it falls in the grey area between a technology service and a broadcast operation.
While Telecom companies MTNL and BSNL have started providing IPTV service in select cities, and more entering the fray in a years time, with ISPs jumping into the game, regulatory issues are bound to crop up.
Cable operators and DTH operators are asking for categorisation of these services under the broadcasting domain. An inter-ministerial panel is looking into regulation of IPTV.
The Society For Indian Media Group(IMG) which is the apex representative body of electronic and print media entities, has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to streamline the broadcast sector with a proper regulatory structure.