The News Broadcasters Association (NBA), the representative body of private television news channels, has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to intervene and take action against Arnab Goswami’s recently launched news channel Republic TV over allegedly unethical distribution practices.
In a letter dated 12 May, NBA said Republic TV has been registered by various cable distribution platforms multiple times under different genres, making the channel appear more than once in their electronic programme guide (EPG), in violation of Trai interconnection regulations.
“Republic TV is licensed as an English news channel but for reasons best known has been registered by several multi-system operators/distribution platform operators/distributors multiple times under different genres in their EPG (electronic programme guide) by listing it on multiple logical channel numbers (LCN). We have been informed of several infractions,” the letter said.
According to Trai, every channel has to declare its genre to the regulator and every distributor is mandated to assign a unique channel number to each TV channel. “It is implied that one channel can only be classified in one genre. We are examining this issue and, accordingly, will send notices to the parties involved,” said a Trai official, who declined to be named.
This is the first time NBA has written to Trai to take action against a channel for distribution malpractices. Currently, Republic TV is not a member of NBA but has applied for membership.
“I am unaware about any issue raised by NBA. I am very surprised to hear about it since most of the existing members are currently using dual (feed) as a marketing tool and have been using it actively during launch or on big events like budget and elections,” said Vikas Khanchandi, chief executive officer at Republic TV.
Media industry executives and experts said this practice could lead to a slight increase in viewership ratings of the channel as the probability of a subscriber watching the channel goes up. They also said it wasn’t uncommon for a channel to do this as a marketing ploy. “The current Trai regulation is not clear about ‘one channel, one genre’ practice, which is why a lot of TV channels resort to this practice to reach out to more audiences. Once the new regulation comes out, this issue will be taken care of,” said a media industry executive who asked not to be named.
Trai notified a new set of interconnection norms in March that was stayed by the Supreme Court in May following a plea by broadcaster Star India Pvt. Ltd. and its subsidiary Vijay Television Pvt. Ltd.
According to NBA’s letter, cable distribution operators who are not following Trai norms include national multi-system operators Den Networks Ltd, Hathway Cable and Datacom Ltd and several other local firms. “As far as Den is concerned, there is no violation of regulation of any sort,” said a spokesperson at Den Networks. Hathway could not be reached for comment. Ashish Bagga, president of NBA, did not respond to calls and messages seeking comment. - Live Mint