TRAI issues new guideline for broadcasting and cable services

Telecom regulator TRAI has decided to introduce caps on discount in prices of bouquets, stipulating that the sum of the a-la-carte rates of pay TV channels should not exceed one-and-half times the rate of the bouquet.
tvThe latest TRAI guidelines will ensure that broadcasters will not be able to use discounted bouquets to attract TV consumers from a-la-carte options.

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, TRAI has decided that only channels that have an MRP of Rs 12 or less will be part of the bouquet. So far, only channels which were priced at Rs 19 or less could be part of a bouquet.

TRAI 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 do not become “illusionary.” As of now, broadcasters are offering discounts in the range of 40-54 percent 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 Rs 130 (excluding taxes) per month for 200 channels. It also capped NCF to Rs 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 compulsorily 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 percent 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.

TRAI has also now allowed DPOs to offer discounts on subscription plans that are for a period of six months or more.

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

TRAI 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.

TRAI believes that the amendments will bring in better offerings to consumers, more flexible tariff schemes and more choices for consumers.

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, TRAI said on Wednesday.