Competition & Economic Regulation

On July 31st, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a consultation paper on the “Ease of Doing Business in the Broadcasting Sector.” The following document is CASBAA’s response to this consultation. The comments made in CASBAA’s submission focus on two sub-sectors of the consultation: issues related to satellite TV channels; and, issues related to DTH/Teleports/HITS. Download CASBAA Comments…

In a letter to the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI), CASBAA urged that the regulator return to its previous approach of having separate regulations for content on pay-TV, from those applied to FTA broadcast TV. Current regulations, while sometimes conflicting and confusing, clearly embody a number of different rules for pay-TV and FTA TV, and "treating the two as equivalent would be a major change." Along the same lines, CASBAA also urged that country-specific content classification and labeling rules not be applied to international pay-TV channels, which cannot economically serve Indonesian (and other) consumers with regional feeds if local classification rules are too tight. "Excessive regulatory requirements will have the effect of increasing the price of pay-TV for Indonesian consumers," said the Association. CASBAA also protested that recent KPI exhortations to replace foreign ads in international advertising streams run counter to international practice (and indeed has not been implemented in any other country in the manner KPI seems to envision). Citing Thai practice up until 2008 as an example, CASBAA warned the regulators that "if a broadcaster receives less advertising income on its channels as a result of removal of Indonesia from its distribution base and rate card, it can...

Several months ago, the Law Commission of India launched a consultation on media law which is concluding now. Among other things, thee LCI is considering issues of media ownership and competition – which have by no means been settled by recent TRAI recommendations on the subject. CASBAA has urged a light touch, with close reliance on general competition law. CASBAA also addressed the question of how best to regulate media content, urging continued reliance on India's self-regulatory bodies, warning that "Overly rigid content regulation, as seen in some other countries, will induce a massive shift in consumer demand for unregulated content viewed via the internet."

CASBAA stressed to Indian regulators that the theory of rate regulation was to protect individual consumers who have limited market power, not commercial customers with many different choices of TV suppliers. TRAI, CASBAA urged, should "allow the conditions of program supply to commercial premises to be negotiated between content aggregators, distribution platforms, and owners of commercial premises."

CASBAA is joining with media and telecom companies in Hong Kong to recommend a series of changes in the HK SAR's Broadcasting Ordinance and Telecom Ordinance. In keeping with the global trend toward lightening restrictions on licensed TV (as competition with unregulated internet-based OTT and pirate offerings becomes ever more intense), the Hong Kong group is recommending that the government relax some of the current outdated restrictions on advertising, content regulation, and cross-media ownership (among other things). The full recommendations will be released soon; in the meantime here for information is a background survey on cross-media ownership prepared by CASBAA. CASBAA's view of the overall issues with unbalanced regulation of licensed television and unlicensed OTT is contained in our publication "A Tilted Playing Field," which can be accessed here.

This paper provides background information on the practice adopted by some governments of requiring "essential content" to be shared among TV operators. It includes a table showing the content sharing lists of governments in Europe and Asia, and takes account of latest developments in Malaysia and Singapore.

CASBAA responded positively to proposals by India's TRAI to liberalize foreign investment controls on pay-TV network operators. In keeping with other liberalizations in India recently, TRAI proposed allowing up to 100% foreign investment on pay-TV companies, to parallel changes in process for telecom companies. In a submission, CASBAA "welcomed and supported" the TRAI proposal that investment in the "carriage" sectors be increased to 100% across the board.

Taiwan, which has had a large, static, legally-mandated analogue cable TV package for years, is in for some change, with consumers paying less for basic TV, but having more choice for premium content. The National Communications Commission announced on July 3 that in early 2017 it would oblige cable operators to offer tiers of programming. A basic tier, to include 11 named "must-carry" FTA channels plus others to be selected by cable operators, would cost only US$6.60 per month. Three add-on expanded basic tiers (which can be selected by consumers) are to cost only $4.30 each. At the top end, however, operators are expected to have more pricing flexibility for premium and HD channels. An obvious prerequisite for this type of pricing is full digitization. One hopeful sign is that Commission spokesperson Yu Hsiao-cheng implied it was not the Commission's intention to continue past regulatory excesses. According to Yu, the commission would not limit the number of channels available in each group, nor would it interfere with the arrangement of the TV channels.

Two recent articles from the English-language press illuminate the continuing, highly political, debate in Taiwan over "media monopoly" issues. They will be of interest to members following issues there. 1. An Op-Ed column in the Taipei Times provides good background on the origin and development of the complicated issues at stake: More 2. Meanwhile, the Want Want China Times (part of the conglomerate at the center of the "monopoly" storm) published that group's point of view, which is anything but neutral: More (Declaration of Interest: None of the companies in the Want Want China Times Group are CASBAA members, though they have been invited. Other players in the Taiwan pay-TV industry are members.)

Page 1 of 41234