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TRAI says it will not revisit tariff order regulations

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TRAI says it will not revisit tariff order regulations

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is very firm with its regulations of the tariff order dated April 30, 2012 on the Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems (DAS). The broadcast fraternity, especially the news broadcasters had protested against the order since it had ‘legalised carriage fee’ that the broadcasters were hoping would have been eradicated in the new order.

In a press interview, JS Sarma, Chairman, TRAI, said that the authority had taken into consideration all feedback on carriage fee and that it was now a well-regulated issue. He is quoted in an interview to news channel NDTV, “We will intervene if required but we won’t relook at the recommendations.”

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) believes that the carriage fee issue would continue to cripple the industry even after digitisation. The TRAI regulation would even lead Direct To Home (DTH) players, who were already facing problems of choked transponders, to ask for carriage fee as it is now mandated.

Some members of the industry, however, pointed out that a fundamental difference in the carriage fee post digitisation is that one component of the fee that was paid for placement on analogue, would in any case be addressed in a digital scenario. The other component, which is carriage fee, was only 10 per cent of the overall fees channels paid.

The order is expected to hit free-to-air channels more than it would impact pay channels, according to industry sources. News channels, by that extension, are expected to be most impacted by this order. TRAI, however, maintains that it took into account all these dynamics before announcing the tariff order. TRAI also says that it has built in checks to ensure transparency on the carriage fee issues.

In its recommendations, TRAI has mandated MSOs (Multi-System Operators) to carry a minimum of 500 channels from Jan 1, 2013, with smaller MSOs (subscriber base less than 25000) been given time till April 1, 2013. Further, every MSO should provide a minimum of 200 channels from July 1, 2012. Only MSOs which abide by the minimum channel capacity criteria laid above can invoke the ‘must provide’ rule to broadcasters. Ruling in favour of broadcasters, TRAI has proposed that a ‘must carry’ rule will be in force from Jan 1, 2013 or April 1, 2013 as the case may be for Hindi, English and channels in the regional language of the concerned area.

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