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Trai to take stock of TV channel pricing, bouquets

08-November-2005
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Trai to take stock of TV channel pricing, bouquets

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today sought comments from various stakeholders in television broadcasting on whether bundling of channels by broadcasters should be stopped. It also invited comments on the broadcasters’ pricing mechanism of channels.

In response to a proposal of MSO Alliance, a group of major cable distributors, Trai today came out with a consultation paper for amendment to ‘the telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) services (second) tariff order’ issued in October 2004.

“The major proposal is for the omission of the words ‘or as part of new separate bouquet’, which will in effect mean that all new channels can only be provided as separate individual channels,” Trai said.

The regulator has also asked whether the bouquet system, wherein a broadcaster clubs all his channels into one package and offers it as a single entity, should be abolished.

The government tried to introduce conditional access system in 2003 to abolish the bouquet system and distribute channels individually.

The consultation paper also seeks inputs on whether all new channels will be provided as separate individual channels. That, the regulator said, would give consumers a much wider choice in selecting channels.

Trai also asked whether the prices charged by the broadcasters from the multi-system operators (MSOs) for channel bouquets launched after December 26, 2003, should be frozen at the levels at which they were introduced.

On the methodology to determine the price of a new channel, the regulator has asked whether there was a need for benchmarks in the tariff order.

“And what can be the methods of arriving at these benchmarks and what should be the criterion for determining similarity of channels?” the paper said.

Trai sought to know the approach to be adopted in case an existing pay channel changed from one distributor to another and whether prices charged by the broadcasters from the MSOs should be released for public information as and when there were changes.

Trai was also of the opinion that consumers would be able to exercise more choice through their cable operators.

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