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TRAI extends NTO 2.0 implementation deadline to 1st April 2022

As per the implementation plan, the DPOs will have to ensure that subscribers avail of pay-TV service as per NTO 2.0 norms with effect from 1st April 2022

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Nov 11, 2021 1:42 PM  | 4 min read
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) l

In a breather for broadcasters and distribution platform operators (DPOs), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has extended the deadline for enforcing New Tariff Order (NTO) 2.0 by coming out with an implementation plan for migration of subscribers to the new pricing regime. As per the implementation plan, the DPOs will have to ensure that subscribers avail of pay-TV service as per NTO 2.0 norms with effect from 1st April 2022. The earlier deadline for implementing NTO 2.0 was 1st December 2021.

The deadline was extended as TRAI had received representations from many service providers and their associations such as broadcasters, DTH Operators, MSOs and other DPOs. The authority, after considering the concerns expressed by various stakeholders and especially with respect to time frame for migration of subscribers and taking their choice, is of the view that paucity of time should not come in the way of smooth implementation of the New Regulatory Framework 2020 in seeking informed choices of more than 150 million pay television consumers.

“In view of the complexities and magnitude of processes involved and keeping in view of the past experiences, it would be prudent that sufficient time should be given for migration of consumers to New Regulatory Framework 2020 to avoid any inconvenience to consumers. Sufficient time for exercising an informed choice is the basic premise of the New Regulatory Framework 2020 which will ensure easy implementation of New Regulatory Framework,” the TRAI said in a letter to the stakeholders.

DPOs will have to obtain the option for subscription of new bouquets or channels from the subscribers in compliance with the provisions of NTO 2.0 from 1st February 2022 to 31st March 2022.

Broadcasters will have to submit new Reference Interconnect Offers (RIOs) to the TRAI by 31st December 2021 and simultaneously publish the required information about channel and bouquet offerings and their MRPs on their websites. The broadcasters who have already submitted their RIOs in compliance of NTO 2.0 can revise their RIOs by 31st December 2021.

DPOs will have to report the Distributor Retail Price (DRP) of pay channels, composition of bouquet of pay channels/free-to-air channels and DRP of bouquets of pay channels by 31st January 2022 besides simultaneously publishing the information on their websites.

The TRAI has directed all the broadcasters and DPOs to comply with the provisions of NTO 2.0, as upheld by High Court of Bombay, and report the compliance to the authority. The TRAI had notified the NTO on 3rd March 2017. It came out with an amended regulatory framework (NTO 2.0) on 1st January 2020. Top broadcasters like Star, Zee, Sony and Viacom18 had challenged the NTO 2.0 in various High Courts, including the High Court of Bombay.

In an order passed on 30th June 2021, the Bombay HC had upheld the validity of NTO 2.0 except for the condition of average test provided in the third proviso to sub-clause (3) of clause 3 of the Tariff Amendment Order 2020. The HC order has been challenged by the broadcasters in the Supreme Court and the same is pending for adjudication.

With the Supreme Court refusing to grant any interim relief to the broadcasters, the TRAI issued a letter to all the broadcasters seeking a compliance report with regard to NTO 2.0 implementation. Subsequently, some more broadcasters have submitted their RIO to TRAI in line with New Regulatory Framework 2020 and same were published on their websites. However, a few broadcasters are yet to comply with the New Regulatory Framework 2020, the TRAI said.

Under NTO 2.0, channels with MRP above Rs 12 cannot be a part of any bouquet. This has forced broadcasters to keep their popular channels out of the bouquet. The top 5 broadcasters have priced their most popular GECs above Rs 20, which means that these channels cannot be a part of any bouquet. As a result, the cost of pay-TV services is expected to go up for the subscribers. The TRAI has hinted at regulating the à la carte price of channels in public interest. Currently, there is no cap on channels that are sold on an à la carte basis.

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