There is relief in sight for cable and DTH subscribers, who have been struggling to select the right channel package and pay only for those channels that they watch.
TRAI has tried to make that process easier by telling DTH and cable TV operators to allow subscribers to change their channel lists by simply sending an SMS.
And, the changes have to be implemented by all operators within 15 days, in what would appear to be a Diwali gift from TRAI.
The move comes days after several consumers, in response to a consultation paper, wrote to TRAI about how their cable bills had increased sharply post-NTO.
According to TRAI's latest notification, the request to add or drop a TV channel will have to be met within 72 hours.
Information on the process of dropping or adding a channel will soon be available on Channel No. 999 on your television, be it a DTH service or neighbourhood cable TV.
Channel No. 999 will give you all the information regarding channel pricing and the process of adding or dropping channels.
Operators will be forced to send a compliance report by the end of the month to the regulator.
TRAI has issued a template that needs to be followed by all operators when it comes to displaying information of Channel No. 999.
Screen 1 of the channel, which has to last at least 30 seconds, will have the url of the operator website, the toll-free number, and a link to download their mobile apps.
The next screen will describe the process of adding or dropping channels.
Operators will also have to put up a screen that would show a list of free-to-air channels, as well as pricing of all the paid channels. Channel packs of broadcasters and operators will also be available on this channel.
TRAI has also told Distribution Platform Operators or Cable and DTH operators to ensure that consumers are able to modify the list of their channels on the Trai app, irrespective of who is providing the cable of DTH service.
"Authority is mandating the DPOs to allow the consumers to access channels/ bouquets available on its platform and have ease m selection of channels and bouquets (addition/ deletion) of their choice, view their subscription and modify the same through the TRAI's APP /Portal by sharing APIs with TRAI," TRAI said in a notification on Wednesday.
The reason to make the change as per TRAI is the continuation of issues related to channel selection by consumers after the new tariff order was issued by Trai. "To ensure proper implementation of the new framework, TRAI has made number of efforts such as series of meetings with Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs), publicity in electronic and news media, interactions with customer groups etc. Despite this, TRAI was in receipt of several complaints from the consumers that they are not able to choose the TV channels conveniently on the web portal/ apps of the DPOs," Trai said in the notification.
How to add/ drop channels
To add a channel, a subscriber will need to type ADD <Channel No> and send an SMS to an operator defined number. If you're sending the message from a non-registered mobile number, then the format would be:
ADD <Channel No> ID <CustomerID>
The same process should be followed to drop a channel. Send:
"DROP <Channel No>" to the operator number if sending from a registered mobile number, or send "DROP <Channel No> ID <Customer ID> if sending from another number.
Channel 999 will also explain the break-up of your cable bill charges to bring in more transparency.