While the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has protested against TRAI’s new Cable TV notification, which it believes has “legalised carriage fees”, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) will deliberate further on the subject in a board meeting in Mumbai today.
In a press statement, NBA expressed “shock” and “dismay” at TRAI's notification dated 30.4.12 on digitising cable TV distribution. The NBA said, “The notification has legitimised the very practice the NBA had hoped would be ended, i.e. the payment of steep ‘carriage fees’ by broadcasters. The primary purpose of digitisation was to increase the number of channels broadcasted. The objective was to give consumers greater choice and to eliminate the phenomenon of ‘carriage fees’, which were being charged due to capacity constraints.”
The statement also said that the NBA is “distressed” and “disappointed” that TRAI's new notification has legalised the practice of ‘carriage fees’ and given distributors the freedom to “unilaterally set the amount of carriage fees that broadcasters must pay”.
In a conversation with exchange4media however, Essel Group’s Jawahar Goel said, “Carriage fee has to come down with digitisation. Broadcasters pay almost Rs 2000 crore in carriage fees today, of which 10 per cent is for carriage and the rest for placement. With digitisation, the placement component will be addressed and only carriage will exist. This too will be there to support the distribution infrastructure that broadcasters have created.”
He also said that channels that are upset with carriage fee were amongst the first to have started it and that they should now help the cable industry to tackle this issue. TRAI’s notification also means that cable players will now invest back in distribution, which was not the case so far.
He added, “Carriage fee was a legal expense in any case so far. Payments were made in cheques, taxes were paid, so it can be undesirable but I don’t think we can call it illegal.”