TDSAT Holds OTT Platforms Not Covered Under TRAI Act

Posted On - 30 November, 2023 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva

On October 4, the Telecoms Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (“TDSAT”) ruled that OTT platforms fall outside the regulatory scope of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (“TRAI”) Act, 1997. The tribunal emphasized that these platforms are subject to regulation solely under the Information Technology Act, 2000, and The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

This ruling stems from a case filed by the All India Digital Cable Federation (“AIDCF”) against Star India Private Limited. AIDCF alleged TRAI regulation violations by Star claiming that the free streaming of ICC World Cup matches on mobile devices via its OTT platform (Disney Hotstar) was discriminatory and contravened TRAI Regulations. Despite TDSAT denying interim relief, the tribunal admitted AIDCF’s petition against Star.

Importantly, TDSAT clarified that OTT platforms, such as Hotstar, are not required to obtain a license from the Central Government under the TRAI Act, given that they are not classified as TV channels. The tribunal’s stance emphasises the distinct regulatory framework applicable to OTT platforms.

In a related development, TDSAT had earlier directed OTT platforms, including Hotstar, Sony Liv, and Sun Nxt, to furnish information on their content to TRAI. However, in September 2022 the Delhi High Court stayed this order. The matter is currently under consideration in the Delhi High Court, adding an additional layer of complexity to the regulatory landscape.