TRAI assures of protecting consumer interest amid tariff hike by big broadcasters
TRAI has also said that it will not allow the additional burden to fall on the consumers
Published - Oct 21, 2021 8:45 AM Updated- Oct 21, 2021 8:45 AM
With price rise looming large due to the hike in the tariff of popular channels by big broadcasters, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has assured that it will protect the interests of the consumers by using the powers conferred to it by the law.
Reacting to the Reference Interconnect Offers (RIO) filed by top broadcasters wherein driver general entertainment and sports channels have been taken out of the bouquet, a senior TRAI official said that the regulator will not allow the additional burden to fall on the consumers.
The official, who did not wish to be named, said that the regulator will give sufficient time to the industry to transition to the new system. “We will give sufficient time to the industry to implement NTO 2.0. We understand that the consumer packages will have to be realigned, and the industry will take time to transition to the new packaging,” the official said.
Queried about the possibility of an increase in monthly TV bills, the official said that the TRAI will work something out to protect the consumers from the price hike. “TRAI will ensure that the customers don't have to pay more. TRAI has got sufficient powers, and we will use that power to take care of the interests of the consumers,” the official added.
The TRAI official also said that the regulator will also protect the interest of the service providers — broadcasters, distribution platform operators (DPOs), and local cable operators (LCOs). “As a regulator, TRAI will take care of the interests of service providers as well as consumers,” the official said, without elaborating much.
On 12th October, the TRAI had issued letters to TV broadcasters seeking compliance details about NTO 2.0 implementation. The regulator had granted 10 days to the broadcasters to provide the compliance report. The letters were issued in the wake of a Supreme Court order rejecting the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation's (IBDF) request for interim relief from NTO 2.0 compliance.
The NTO 2.0 barring the second twin condition has been upheld by the Bombay High Court. The IBDF and its members have challenged the Bombay HC order in the apex court, which has posted the matter for final hearing on 30th November.
Following the issuance of letters, big broadcasters like Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), Star India, ZEEL, and Viacom18 filed their RIOs one after the other. A common thread in all the RIOs is the exclusion of mainline GECs from the bouquets. Sony and Star have also pulled out some of their sports channels from the bouquets. The new RIOs will take effect from 1st December.
The TRAI has reduced the MRP cap for the inclusion of a channel in a bouquet to Rs 12 from Rs 19. It had also introduced twin conditions to ensure a correlation between bouquet and à la carte pricing. The regulator has capped the discounts that broadcasters can offer on bouquets.
The reduction of channel MRP cap and restrictions on bouquet discounts had left the broadcasters with two choices — either to reduce the price of flagship channels to Rs 12 and keep them in the bouquet, or to price them above Rs 12 and sell them on à la carte basis.
Risking the possibility of a drop in the reach of their channels, the broadcasters have decided to offer GECs on à la carte which will prove to be a costly affair for consumers. A drop in reach will impact both the subscription and advertising revenues of the broadcasters. If the prices go up as expected, the DPOs risk losing customers to either DD Free Dish or OTT. The consumers will be worse off as they may have to pay more for less number of channels.
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