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    What Do FICCI, ASSOCHAM Say About the NBP

    The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a consultation paper on a prospective National Broadcasting Policy last month, inviting comments from various stakeholders like industry advocacy groups and corporations. 

    FICCI and ASSOCHAM, two major industry bodies, have submitted their comments on the regulatory body’s initiative, broadly asking for a light-touch regulatory approach and the implementation of existing laws.

    FICCI

    The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) submitted a comment on the online gaming industry, suggesting regulations to promote the growth of the industry while protecting users from malpractices. 

    Regulatory Framework:

    The TRAI consultation paper referred to the IT Rules amendment of 2023 which would allow the online gaming industry to self-regulate through ministry approved self-regulatory bodies. However, the government backtracked on its decision early this year, with Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar claiming that the government was unsatisfied with the single application that it received. FICCI supports the amended rules, calling their implementation “crucial” for the orderly growth of the sector. It makes a few more suggestions for MeitY:  

    • Three-Tier Regulatory Framework akin to OTT: Creating a three-tier regulatory framework, which would involve 
    1. Level I – Self-regulation by the publishers;
    2. Level II – Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers;
    3. Level III – Oversight mechanism by the Central Government.
    • Establishment of a Single Independent Regulator: An autonomous regulator that is not distant from ground-level industry concerns.
    • Introduction of a Registration Mechanism: Implementing a registration mechanism wherein all online gaming intermediaries are required to register with MeitY.
    • MeitY should consider explicit obligations regarding advertisements in the Code of Ethics section of the IT Rules, which would prohibit publishers and content creators from carrying any advertisements related to online betting or gambling.  

    Supporting Local Game Development in India: 

    • Finalising and notifying the national Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming, and Comics (AVGC) policy alongside establishing dedicated oversight mechanisms between state and central governments.
    • Ensure synergy between state and central governments. 

    Promoting Healthy Gaming While Protecting Citizens (especially minors):

    FICCI argues that in the absence of Self-Regulatory Bodies (SRBs) online gaming companies follow the strict rules laid down in the IT Rules. It states, “it is apparent that safeguards to protect the general public are already in place and industry has also opted for voluntary initiatives to ensure consumer protection.” Instead, it asks for the enforcement of the IT Rules.

    ASSOCHAM

    The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) wrote to TRAI asking for a few key principles to be kept in mind while answering three of the questions raised in the consultation paper. 

    The NBP should ensure regulatory parity between DD Free Dish and private DPOs:

    ASSOCHAM observed that currently, private dish operators are required to comply with TRAI’s “complex” regulatory framework while DD Free Dish is not. DD Free Dish carries several free channels that are paid channels for customers of private dish operators; there is no regulatory capping of carriage fee for DD Free Dish and its set top boxes are unencrypted, hence outside the purview of TRAI Interconnection Regulation. ASSOCHAM argues that private DTH operators should be freed from the regulatory framework and allowed to operate on a business model akin to DD Free dish to address market needs. 

    The NBP must promote regulatory forbearance:

    ASSOCHAM asks TRAI to incorporate the principle of “regulatory forbearance”, which is described as an “evidence-driven approach” where the regulator “forgoes direct intervention if the operation of market forces can achieve desired outcomes and there is no evidence of market failure.” It alleges that the TRAI’s New Tariff Order (NTO) caused “widespread unrest” and caused the prices of services to go up, demanding its urgent replacement with a new regulatory framework that would be based on the principle of forbearance. The submission asks for a “light-touch approach”, similar to the telecom sector. 

    The NBP should incorporate Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA):

    According to ASSOCHAM, RIA is a “structured and systematic approach to evaluating the potential impacts of proposed regulations” which should be incorporated into the NBP for a transparent and effective policy. 

    Ensure a level playing field between Direct to Mobile (D2M) and Telecom Service Providers (TSPs):

    Services providing D2M broadcasting services on the free spectrum assigned by the MIB would be acting as substitutes for services offered by TSPs. TRAI must therefore ensure a level playing field and assign spectrums for D2M services through transparent auctions. 

    Strategies to be adopted by the government to provide affordable TV services in TV Dark Homes:

    1. Addressing the regulatory disparity between public service broadcasters and private Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) is crucial for ensuring business viability and fostering a level playing field.
    2. Equalising the regulatory framework governing public service broadcasters, such as DD Free Dish, and private DPOs, or alternatively, empowering private DPOs to introduce innovative services akin to DD Free Dish, is recommended.
    3. Allowing private DPOs full forbearance from TRAI’s New Tariff Order (NTO) to offer affordable Free-To-Air (FTA) package options can enhance television service accessibility for a broader demographic.
    4. Implementing market-based tailored pricing and bundling strategies for rural markets can help bridge the accessibility gap in these regions.
    5. Encouraging the reactivation of inactive set-top boxes through incentive schemes can effectively extend the reach of television services without significant infrastructure investments.
    6. Developing curated content bundles specifically tailored for underpenetrated markets can ensure that programming aligns with diverse preferences and requirements of these communities.

    What regulatory and policy measures should be taken for the promotion of online gaming in India while protecting the public?

    Regulatory framework to be adopted by the government:

    • Implement amended IT Rules for robust governance and regulation of the online gaming industry.
    • Address any regulatory concerns through prompt amendments to eliminate ambiguities.
    • Explore additional regulatory tiers like Self-Regulatory Bodies (SRBs) or alternative models akin to OTT platforms.
    • Introduce registration mechanism mandating online gaming platforms to register with MeitY for transparency and accountability.
    • Conduct periodic reviews of IT Rules’ effectiveness and introduce additional safeguards as necessary.
    • Formalize regulations to limit ads/endorsements of betting/gambling platforms.
    • Take stringent action against illicit betting/gambling platforms.
    • Consider prohibiting such ads by online publishers under IT Rules.
    • Issue clarification on levying GST on an as-is basis for the online gaming sector from July 2017 to Sep 2023.
    • Avoid enforcing demands that could hamper the sunrise online gaming industry’s growth.
    • Ministry of Finance to intervene and provide clarity on GST to prevent adverse impacts.

    Promoting indigenous game development in India:

    ASSOCHAM reflects the opinion of FICCI and asks for the finalisation of the national AVGC policy and synergy between the Central and state governments.

    Promoting Healthy Gaming While Protecting Citizens (especially minors):

    ASSOCHAM again follows FICCI in arguing that safeguards to protect the general public are already in place.

    Strategies for an effective audience measurement and rating system:

    ASSOCHAM argues for steps to promote healthy competition within the audience measurement space including a light-touch regulatory approach and data collection and sharing by distribution platforms.


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    The post What Do FICCI, ASSOCHAM Say About the NBP appeared first on MediaNama.

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