Broadcast tariff order changes ‘to prevent distortion of choice for users’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 13, 2020 Published on January 13, 2020

RS Sharma, Chairman, TRAI

TRAI chief: Changes balance interests of broadcasters and distribution platforms

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has defended its recent amendments to the regulatory framework for the broadcasting sector stating that it has been done to address the anomalies such as excessive price hikes by broadcasters in a la carte prices of channels and other issues concerning network capacity fee faced by consumers.

It added that these changes balance the interests of both the broadcasters and the Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) by creating a level-playing field.

Last week, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation had expressed grave concerns regarding the amendments, calling them “arbitrary” and stated that they will trigger large-scale disruptions and adversely impact the growth of the sector.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, TRAI Chairman RS Sharma said: “The purpose of bringing these amendments was to fine-tune the regulatory framework and address the aberrations in the framework that we have observed in the past one year. Our primary focus is consumer empowerment.”

Twin conditions

To a query on the twin-conditions imposed on bouquet discounts, he said: “We are certainly not against bouquets but we are against any attempts to distort the choices of consumers by making a la carte pricing illusory.” He added that this view has been endorsed by the Supreme Court.

Elaborating, TRAI Secretary SK Gupta said: “When the NTO was implemented in December 2018, some of the leading broadcasters increased the MRP of some of their channels by more than 200 per cent in line with the earlier ceiling of MRP of ₹19 for a channel to become part of the bouquet. As a regulator, it’s our duty to ensure such an aberration does not happen, and consumers should not face hardships due to such a price hike.”

“We are not trying to regulate the pricing of channels. But we believe reduction in the ceiling price of a pay channel for inclusion in bouquet from ₹19 to ₹12 and the introduction of twin conditions on bouquet discounts will ensure fair packaging of bouquets and reasonable price of a channel on an a la carte basis,” he added.

Meanwhile, officials added that the regulator is also now working with the stakeholders to allow consumers to access, subscribe or delete channels of their choice and modify their subscription plans through a TRAI app.

The regulator added that the amendments are to ensure that the consumers have choice in subscribing to channels either a la carte or as part of a bouquet.


Creating a level playing field

On concerns that the amendments will adversely impact the viability of niche and smaller channels, Sharma said: “We believe small and regional broadcasters will in fact now get a level-playing field and will be able to compete much better in the ecosystem with the amendments. Capping of the carriage fee payable by broadcasters to DPOs will ensure the viability of news, regional and niche channels. In addition, capping of maximum network capacity fee at ₹160/month (excluding taxes) will mean higher chances of news and regional FTA channels being viewed.”

To a query on IBF looking at a legal recourse against the amendments, Sharma said: “Our basic DNA is to be consultative. While anyone has the right to go to court, we are open to discussion on concerns regarding these regulations.”

While broadcasters have to declare their revised prices by January 15, the new framework will come into effect from March 1 for consumers.

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Published on January 13, 2020
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