Will not shy away from reviewing forbearance allowed to broadcasters: TRAI
The regulator says it will do so in the larger interest of consumers and the Broadcasting Sector.
Reacting to the price hike by broadcasters, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has said that it will not shy away from reviewing certain provisions including forbearance allowed to broadcasters in the larger interest of consumers and the Broadcasting Sector.
In a statement, the regulator reiterated that the NTO 2.0 framework is a comprehensive code that balances the interests of the service providers as-well-as the consumers. It added that the framework should result into reducing prices for the consumers. Once implemented in true letter and spirit, it will bring in an era of transparent tariffs and usher in better channel content at most competitive prices, it noted.
"In addition, TRAI will also keep a strict watch over the developments and will not shy away from reviewing certain provisions including forbearance allowed to broadcasters in the larger interest of consumers and the Broadcasting Sector," the statement reads. The TRAI also said that some broadcasters continue to derive undue benefits of the forbearance & flexibility of the regime of 2017.
The TRAI also said that it may review the time frame provided for implementation of NTO 2.0 to help consumers in making informed choices. The regulator said that it is conscious of the time required for implementation of necessary changes to be carried out to incorporate the considered choices of 150-160 million pay television homes.
The statement also notes that a sustained misleading campaign is being run to create an impression that the impending price increase is due to NTO 2.0. This, the regulator said, is an incorrect representation of the NTO 2.0. “It is being publicised that any/ every consumer who opts top GEC channels or sports channels will end-up paying an extra amount of Rs 100/-. This is a fictional pretension as NTO 2.0 does not entail or prescribe any condition for increasing prices,” the regulator stated.
TRAI said it is aware that prices of some of the channels announced by broadcasters are unsustainable as these are not demand driven or market determined prices and are against the interest of consumers. "The price hike has been announced on their own in the garb of complying to NTO 2.0, which is not true and rather an attempt to defeat the purpose of NTO 2.0 which has already benefited the consumers to a large extent," it added.
According to TRAI, the purpose of amendments was to ensure that no service provider corners undue gains and profiteers at the expense of consumers. It is important to note that the channel pricing remained under prescribed ceiling for 15 years since 2004.
“However, the new framework provided freedom to broadcasters to fix prices of their television channels with certain conditions for inclusion into a bouquet. Some broadcasters revised prices in compliance to NTO 2.0 thereby passing on certain benefits to consumers. Few other broadcasters are now exploiting freedom available for a-la-carte pricing of television channels. The new tariff announced by these leading broadcasters reflect their intention to increase prices of driver & popular channels. Driver channels include General Entertainment Channels and sports channels,” it stated.
The regulator alleged that some service providers did not allow the consumer to get full benefits of new framework and exploited the flexibility available in the Regulations and Tariff Order issued in 2017. To address such malfeasance, TRAI carried out consultative process in last quarter of 2019 and issued amended framework on 1st January 2020.
"Under amended provisions which have been implemented, a consumer gets 226 televisions channels in the lowest network capacity slab, capped at Rs. 130/-. This has greatly benefitted the marginal consumers. Similarly, for a second television set one now pays only 40% of the Full Network Capacity Fee. These measures together have enabled all consumers to have choice of their own channels along with cost savings to the extent of 30 to 40% monthly," the TRAI said.
The TRAI pointed out that some broadcasters challenged the amendments in High Court of Bombay and this legal challenge delayed the implementation of certain provisions relating to pay channel prices. Both the framework in 2017 and the amended framework 2020 (NTO 2.0) have prescribed maximum benefits to the consumers.
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