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TRAI promises ‘moderate’ Carriage fees

In an interview with NDTV, TRAI chairman JS Sarma said that TRAI has brought to surface the underground problem of carriage fees and now wants to make it a regulated entity

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | May 7, 2012

The TRAI Notification on Carriage Fees is creating more issue than the ‘digitisation’ itself. In an interview recently to NDTV CEO Vikram Chandra, JS Sarma, Chairman, TRAI, has cleared a few misconceptions related to the issue.

“Carriage fee is something that has been going on for some time. Who started it and why he started it is immaterial. The fact is that the carriage fees are actually big now and it is estimated to be in the order of Rs 1600-2000 crores. Since it is totally underground, no one knows about it. What we have done is brought it on to the surface and regulated it, now it's a regulated entity,” Sarma claimed.

He added, “We said that 500 channels must be provided by every MSO, now this is significant. Currently some people have 175, some have 200, some people have 300 and perhaps only 1 or 2 persons have more than 300. This means that even today, though there are about 500 channels, if a broadcaster wants a channel to be carried, there is always a scope for carriage fee. What we mandated is that from 1st January 2013, and for smaller people from 1st April 2013, the number of channels provided must be 500. There are about 800 odd channels in this country, out of them about 600 odd channels are active. Out of these all the English, all the Hindi, plus any one regional language will not exceed 470. That is why we mandated 500. If the number of channels goes up, it becomes 800 active channels, then we could actually increase this number.”

On being asked as to what are the levels of carriage that Sarma would consider unreasonable, Sarma insisted, “At this stage it is very difficult to put it down, but typically, generally anything above 50 paise, per channel per subscriber per year.  I just want to mention that it is currently not in the regulation, but obviously we don't want astronomical figures. Getting back to carriage fees, we are not indicating any figure at this stage; this is what we have in mind. As is said, this is meant for the carriage of the channel. It is not any other money, because we are saying no to placement fees.”

On the concluding note, he highlighted, “I have been repeatedly saying that cable, as in other countries, should become the deliverer of plenty of services and broadband is a major major thing, it is not channels alone, In fact channels will be one of the services that the MSO will be delivering, in my opinion, in the future. It would be delivering in telecom, delivering broadband, in fact it would be delivering access to educational services, access to health services etc. So with all this I think the relationship between the broadcaster and the MSO will be far more smooth than what it is now.”

On Monday, April 30, 2012, TRAI had issued the Tariff Order and Interconnection Regulations for the Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems. While the Tariff Order has been issued as an amendment to the existing Tariff Order for addressable systems, dated 21st July 2010, the Interconnection Regulation is comprehensive one for the Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems.

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