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Concern over OTT media services in Belarus


According to BelTA representatives of the Belarusian Information Ministry, interested government agencies, TV channels, cable television companies, and the Telecommunication Industry Union met in Minsk to discuss ways to regulate the operation of over-the-top (OTT) media services.

Belarusian Deputy Information Minister Pavel Legky noted that the initiative to discuss the problem had been put forward by cable operators and television channels. Pavel Legky said: We would like experts to tell us about the trends that exist on the information market today. We would like to learn how serious the problem is, what the prospects are, whether there are any bounds, how much longer the development of OTT services will continue, whether there are positive aspects for the development of the media market, and whether there are threats. The Information Ministry needs to understand these matters as the agency in charge of regulating the information market. And his words, OTT services are the part of the information market, which is not very well regulated by legislation. The presence of OTT services in the media space needs to be regulated by precisely defined rules. We want everyone, who provides a service to end subscribers, to consumers, to TV viewers, to operate in equal conditions. We are talking about major TV channels and smaller ones, about telecommunication operators, and possibly service providers, primarily OTT services, noted the deputy information minister. Pavel Legky explained that telecom carriers are required by law to deliver the publicly available package of nine TV channels to end consumers. I think it would be right to require all the other parties, which provide similar services, to do the same and deliver the mandatory package to the TV viewers, said the official. Copyright and allied rights are another problem. Operators make payments to the National Intellectual Property Center just as the law requires but OTT services may or may not do the same depending on the good will of their owners. I don't think the situation is entirely right, added Pavel Legky. This part of the information field can be regulated by bylaws, believes the deputy information minister. I think all the market players are interested in it because we can build constructive and mutually beneficial relations when the rules are universal, understandable, and transparent, he concluded. Yelena Klyuikova, Chairwoman of the Board of the Telecommunication Industry Union, noted that bona fide telecom carriers face unfair competition on the part of OTT media services. The latter take away subscribers, with the annual loss estimated at 10% at least. Most of the OTT services do not pay taxes and are not registered with the state registry. In other words, they provide television without signing contracts with copyright holders. They do not pay for allied rights and make no payments to the National Intellectual Property Center. They do not deliver the mandatory package of TV channels. Yelena Klyuikova made it clear that the Telecommunication Industry Union is strongly in favor of regulating the operation of OTT media services.

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