TRAI fine tunes broadcast tariff regime to address consumers concerns

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 01, 2020

Caps on bouquet discounts, network capacity fees

Broadcast and Telecom regulator TRAI has moved to ensure that discounted bouquets are not used by broadcasters to wean away consumers from a-la-carte options. It has now decided to introduce caps on discounting in prices of bouquets, stipulating that the sum of the a-la-carte rates of pay channels should not exceed “one-and-half times” the rate of the bouquet of which such pay channels are a part.

Other amendments introduced for the cable and broadcast tariff regime include changes in network capacity fee (NCF) caps, lower NCF for second and additional connections in multi-TV homes and allowing Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) to offer discounts on long-term subscription plans among others. The new provisions will come into effect from March 1 for consumers.

Additionally, it has decided that only channels that have an MRP of ₹12 or less will be part of the bouquet. So far, only channels which were priced at ₹19 or less could be part of a bouquet. It also said that “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 pay channel is a part.”

TRAI believes these measures will ensure prices of a-la-carte channels does not becomes “illusionary.” As of now, broadcasters are offering discounts in the range of 40-54 per cent on bouquets, in a bid to push all their channels.

TRAI also said that distribution platform operators have now been mandated to charge a maximum NCF of ₹130 (excluding taxes) per month for 200 channels. It also capped NCF to ₹160 per month excluding taxes for providing all the channels available on their distribution platform. TRAI also said that the 26 DD channels that need to be carried compulsarily by a platform will not be counted in the number of channels for NCF.

The regulator also said that in case of multi-TV homes, DPOs can charge a maximum “40 per cent of the declared NCF for second and additional TV connections.” TRAI said this was being done as it has received complaints from consumers that the DPOs are currently taking huge charges in the form of NCF from multi-TV homes. It has also now allowed DPOs to offer discounts on subscription plans that are for a period of six months or more.

Meanwhile, to address the concern of broadcasters regarding high carriage fee charged by DPOs, the regulator has capped the carriage fee to ₹4 lakh per month for carrying a channel in the country.

“The Authority has mandated that MSOs, HITS operators, IP TV service providers will not have target markets bigger than a State or a Union Territory as the case may be,” the official statement added.

“The Authority is of the view that the amendments will usher in better consumer offerings, more flexible tariff schemes and more choices for consumers. Overall, the amendments are expected to result in healthier and structured growth of the Broadcasting and Cable Services sector,” TRAI said in its official statement.

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

Published on January 01, 2020

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