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TRAI steps in to fix carriage fee @Rs 3-5 per STB per year

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TRAI steps in to fix carriage fee @Rs 3-5 per STB per year

To iron out the glitches faced in the first phase of the cable TV digitisation process, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has turned its attention to Phase II of DAS.

Industry sources have informed that a meeting was held recently between broadcasters, TRAI and Multi System Operators (MSOs) to discuss carriage fees and channel packages. At the meeting, TRAI suggested that broadcasters sign an agreement with the operators to share the offer of channel packages and carriage fees. The regulatory body suggested that a carriage fee of Rs 3-5 be set per set top box (STB) per annum. The deadline for an agreement between MSOs and broadcasters in this regard is December 21, 2012.

Carriage fee, which broadcasters pay to MSOs and Local Cable Operators (LCOs) for taking their channels to the viewers, has been a bone of contention and has pitted broadcasters against MSOs and LCOs. It may be recalled that in October this year, broadcasters had entered into an agreement with MSOs that the carriage fee would range from 50 paise to Re 1 per set top box subscriber per channel per year. The agreement was for an initial period of one year and included marketing fees and packaging fees.

Commenting on the new carriage fees suggested by TRAI, one of the broadcasters said, “We are okay with the new rate as earlier we had to pay any amount that was demanded by the cable operators. Along with us, even the MSOs are agreeing with this decision.”

Another broadcaster, on conditions of anonymity said, “It’s a welcome decision for broadcasters, but only offering such deals system won’t work. The market has to show cooperation and sign the agreement and accept this offer. This battle hasn’t moved in the last four months, so we will wait and see what happens in another seven days.”

Earlier, news broadcasters had expressed concern regarding the carriage fees pre- and post-digitisation. While placement fees have been prohibited by TRAI, broadcasters were concerned about the lack of clarity on carriage fees. It remains to be seen how soon TRAI’s suggestion regarding carriage fees will be implemented and both the parties will sign the agreement, or whether the December 21 deadline will be extended.

Meanwhile, in a separate development the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has sought TRAI’s recommendations regarding the entry of Central or State Governments into broadcasting. The move will have direct implications on the Tamil Nadu Government run Arasu Cable as well as an HRD Ministry proposal to run 1,000 educational channels, among others.

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