DTH and cable operators including Hathway, Jio and Airtel have urged the regulator to put the broadcasting sector under forbearance. Submitting comments to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, they said that the New Broadcasting Policy, which is currently in the works, should take a forbearance-based approach and only regulate instances of market failure, noting that the New Tariff Order regime is excessively constraining the broadcasting industry. 

In its opening comments to TRAI, Hathway asked the regulator to look at forbearance at the retail level arguing “The prevailing regulatory framework, commonly known as New Tariff Order (NTO) imposes extensive regulations on nearly all aspects of the television broadcasting industry. This excessive control has significantly constrained the industry’s capacity to adapt and cater to consumer demands in line with market forces, thereby hindering its flexibility and responsiveness.”

Jio’s concern

Jio went on to say that despite several attempts and amendments NTO, the regulators have failed to address the fundamental flaws with the policy. The NTO regime is in stark contrast with the forbearance-based approach in the telecommunications sector, where significant growth was propelled by competitive market forces according to Jio. 

“NBP-2024 should aim to attract investments into the sector. Achieving this requires granting forbearance to the industry, empowering it to meet market demands and offer innovative services to customers. The regulatory interventions should be limited solely to areas where there are concerns about market failure or instances where service providers are unable to reach an agreement,” Jio added. 

On the retail side, under NTO – the TRAI regulates the pricing of channels in the broadcasting sector. Broadcasters vehemently opposed price revisions under NTO 2.0, since TRAI reduced pricing for a-la-carte channels.

Airtel indicated that State-mandated pricing should not be present in the new regulatory regime. “We recommend that the National Broadcasting Policy should bring about complete forbearance in the regulatory pricing framework. It will enable orderly growth, reduce prices, improve quality of service and will ultimately benefit the consumer and will also restore the fundamentals of the industry and enable long term viability, sustainability and competitiveness,” they said.