TRAI warns broadcasters against arbitrary channel pricing

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on October 23, 2021

Will not shy away from reviewing certain provisions, says the regulator

A week after broadcasters announced their new channel pricing that jacks up the cost for the consumers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has stepped in to assert that it will review the current provisions in the New Tariff Order (NTO 2.0) to check the spiralling cost.

TRAI officials told BusinessLine that some broadcasters are “exploiting” the freedom available in the new framework for pricing of a-la-carte television channels.

The regulator warned that it will not shy away from reviewing “certain provisions including forbearance” to check prices in the larger interest of the consumers.

Forbearance clause gives broadcasters freedom to price their a-la-carte channels as they choose. A-la-carte channels are those that are not part of a bouquet. TRAI is considering reviewing this clause to protect consumer interest.

The regulator’s statement comes in the wake of the broadcasters declaring their new channel pricing in accordance with the NTO 2.0 effective December 1. Under the amended tariff order, the price of channels that are part of the bouquet is capped at ₹12 but a-la-carte channels can be priced higher. Leading broadcasters have decided to keep their popular channels out of bouquets and have priced them higher in the range of ₹15-25 per month.

The regulator maintained that the new tariffs reflect some broadcasters’ intent to “increase prices of their driver and popular channels” such as general entertainment and sports channels.

‘Defeats the purpose’

“The price hike has been announced on their own in the garb of complying with 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,” the regulator said.

It was pointed out that for 15 years since 2004, channel pricing was under a prescribed ceiling. However, the new framework gives broadcasters freedom to price their a-la-carte channels. While the purpose of the amendments was to ensure that no player profiteers at the expense of consumers, the exact opposite seemed to be happening.

“TRAI will keep a watch over the developments and it will not shy away from reviewing certain provisions including forbearance allowed to broadcasters in the larger interest of consumers and the broadcasting sector,” the regulator said, adding that it may also review the time frame provided for implementation of the new pricing framework.

Published on October 22, 2021

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