TRAI sets down conditions to regulate a-la-carte channel pricing

The regulatory authority has said broadcasters and DPOs will have to publish the revised MRP of a-la-carte channels and of bouquets on their website by January 15 and January 30 respectively

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Jan 2, 2020 2:17 PM

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With an aim to provide better consumer offerings, more flexible tariff schemes and increased choices for consumers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued amendments to the tariff order, interconnection regulations and quality of services regulations of 2017 for the broadcasting and cable services sector.

Consumers will be able to benefit from the amended provisions with effect from March 1, 2020.

TRAI has said that overall the amendments are expected to result in a healthier and structured growth of the Broadcasting and Cable Services sector.

The authority said it has analysed comments of stakeholders particularly to protect the interests of consumers and accordingly modify certain provision of the new regulatory framework.

In order to address the issue of offering of huge discounts in formation of bouquets by broadcasters vis-a-vis sum of a-la-carte channels, the authority has prescribed twin conditions to ensure that the price of a-la-carte channels does not become illusionary. First, the sum of a-la-carte rates of pay channels (MRP) that are part of a bouquet shall in no case exceed one and a half times the rate of the bouquet of which such pay channels are a part. Secondly, the a-la-carte rates of each pay channel (MRP), forming part of a bouquet, shall in no case exceed three times the average rate of a pay channel of the bouquet of which such a pay channel is a part.

Additionally, the authority has decided that only channels with an MRP of Rs 12 or less will be permitted to be part of the bouquet offered by broadcasters.

The other area of concern for consumers was regarding issues related to Network Capacity Fee (NCF). After examining various provisions TRAI accordingly mandated provision of 200 channels with maximum NCF of Rs 130 excluding taxes per month.

In addition, it has also been decided that channels declared mandatory by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will not be counted as part of channels in the NCF. DPOs have also been mandated that they will not charge more than Rs160 per month for providing all channels available on their platform.

TRAI has also said that consumers have highlighted the issue of DPOs charging huge sums in the form of NCF for a multi-TV home. It has thus been decided that in case of a multi-TV home (where more than one TV connection in a home is in the name of one person) the maximum charge will be 40 per cent of the declared NCF, also for the second and additional TV connections.

The authority has also permitted DPOs to offer discounts on long-term subscriptions that are for six months or more.

TRAI has also considered the concern of broadcasters about the heavy carriage fee being charged by DPOs. The authority has thus mandated that MSOs, HITS operators, IP TV service providers will not have a target market bigger than State or Union Territory as the case may be. In addition, a cap of Rs 4 lakh per month has been prescribed on carriage fee payable by a broadcaster to a DPO in a month for carrying a channel in the country.

The authority has also considered giving more flexibility to DPOs to place TV channels on the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and has mandated that channel of a language in a genre will be kept together while placing channels on EPG. Such an EPG layout is to be mandatorily reported to the TRAI and no change in this can be done without prior approval of the authority. This will address the concerns of the broadcasters to a great extent to protect them as it will not allow DPOs to frequently change the LCN of the television channel, in case they do not agree to their mandates.

TRAI has also mentioned in its official statement that the amendments carried out through the consultation process has left the basic contours of the new regime untouched and that the Broadcasters/Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) will continue to enjoy the flexibility in carrying out their businesses.

The amendments provide appropriate time to stakeholders for implementation, TRAI has said.

The broadcasters are required to publish the revised MRPs of a-la-carte channels and bouquets on their website by January 15, 2020, and the DPOs are required to publish revised DRP of a-la-carte channels and bouquets on their website by January 30, 2020.

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