OTT Platforms do not fall under the Purview of TRAI

Nisha Sinha

October 9, 2023

OTT Platforms do not fall under the Purview of TRAI

The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (‘TDSAT’) vide its order dated October 4, 2023, in the case of All India Digital Cable Federation v. Star India Pvt Ltd[1] held that OTT platforms do not fall under the purview of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 (“TRAI Act”) and the regulations framed thereunder.  The All-India Digital Cable Federation (‘Petitioner’) submitted that Star India Pvt Ltd. (‘Respondent’) is obligated to provide TV channels in a non-discriminatory, according to different clauses outlined in Regulation 2 of The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulation, 2017 (“2017 Regulations”). The petitioner claimed that the respondent is charging the petitioner for their TV channel Star Sports, whereas the OTT platform being offered by them allows viewers and customers to access Star Sports for free, which is in violation of Regulation 3(2) of Regulations, 2017. The petitioner filed the petition, seeking an interim relief of restraining the respondent from permitting their viewers to access Star Sports on mobile devices free of charge or, alternatively providing the petitioner with access to Star Sports on television free of charge.

The respondent argued that according to Regulation 2(r) of the 2017 Regulations, OTT platforms are not covered under the definition of a ‘distribution platform’ since the definition is exhaustive in nature. The respondent contended that upon perusal of the overall provisions of the 2017 Regulations, it becomes clear that these provisions are meant for regulating the distribution of signals of TV channels and they do not cover OTT platforms. The respondent also stated that the OTT platforms do not require any permission or a license from the Union government and that OTT platforms do not qualify as TV Channels. It was averred by the respondent that OTT platforms are covered by the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the rules made thereunder in the year 2021 (and do not come under the purview of the TRAI Act, 1997, and the Regulations framed under the TRAI Act). The respondent also pointed out to TDSAT that the petitioner had simultaneously filed a writ petition (All India Digital Cable Federation Vs. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, WPC No. 12906 of 2023) before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in respect of the main issues raised in the present petition.

The TDSAT after hearing the contention of both the parties, rejected the interim relief prayed by the petitioner and held that prima facie OTT platforms are not regulated by TRAI and no irreparable loss will be caused to the petitioner if the stay, as prayed for, is not granted.

[1] Broadcasting Petition/217/2023 with Misc Application/236/2023

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