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TRAI attempts at transparency in new tariff order

The telecom regulator notified the earlier tariff order after getting the Supreme Court’s nod. Once a channel is pushed in a bouquet, the maximum retail price has to be capped at Rs 19 per channel per subscriber per month

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | March 7, 2016

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), after getting approval from the Supreme Court of India, notified the tariff order that it had recommended in October 2016. In the tariff order, TRAI attempted to ensure transparency, non-discrimination, consumer protection and create an enabling environment for orderly growth of the sector.

The new tariff order is expected to empower the consumers to decide and choose which channels they want to watch and hence, pay for. Till now, bundling channels together was giving the right to the broadcasters to push the channels under the consumers’ priority list. The new tariff order states that the broadcasters are free to price their channels as long as the channels are offered in the A-la-carte manner. Once a channel is pushed in a bouquet, the maximum retail price (MRP) is to be capped at Rs 19 per channel per subscriber per month.

TRAI feels that allowing the broadcasters to decide the MRP and declare it for their pay channels, will in a way, self-regulate the pricing and provide flexibility to maximise their subscription revenues.

The salient features of the tariff order:

  1. Broadcasters to declare maximum retail price (MRP) (excluding taxes), per month, of their A-la-carte pay channels for subscribers.
  2. A broadcaster can also offer bouquets of its pay channels and declare MRP (excluding taxes) of bouquets for subscribers. However, MRP of such bouquets of pay channels will not be less than 85 per cent of the sum of maximum retail price of the A-la-carte pay channels forming part of that bouquet.
  3. A separate bouquet for pay channels and free-to-air channels.
  4. Charges payable by a subscriber for distribution network capacity and channels have been separated.
  5. The distribution network capacity required for initial 100 standard definition (SD) channels can be availed by a subscriber by paying an amount, not exceeding Rs 130 (excluding taxes) per month to the distributor of TV channels.
  6. Within the capacity of 100 SD channels, apart from the channels to be mandatorily provided to subscribers as notified by the Central Government, a subscriber will be free to choose any free-to-air channel, pay channel, or bouquet of pay channels offered by the broadcasters or bouquet of pay channels offered by the distributor of television channels or bouquet of free-to-air channels offered by the distributor of television channels or a combination thereof.
  7. No separate charges, other than the network capacity fee, to be paid by the subscribers for subscribing to free-to-air channels or bouquet of free-to-air channels.
  8. The additional capacity, beyond initial 100 channels capacity, can be availed by a subscriber in the slabs of 25 SD channels each, by paying an amount not exceeding Rs 20 per such slab, excluding taxes, per month.
  9. Every distributor of television channels shall offer all channels available on its network to all subscribers on a-la-carte basis.
  10. Every distributor of television channels shall declare distributor retail price of each pay channel and bouquet of pay channels payable by a subscriber:
  11. A subscriber can choose A-la-carte channels of its choice.
  12. Distributors of television channels are permitted to form bouquets from a-la-carte pay channels and bouquet of pay channels of broadcasters. However, the distributor retail price of such bouquets of pay channels shall not be less than 85 per cent of the sum of distributor retail prices of the A-la-carte pay channels and bouquets of pay channels of broadcasters forming part of that bouquet.
  13. A subscriber has to pay separate charges, other than the network capacity fee, for subscribing to pay channels or bouquet of pay channels.
  14. Distributors of television channels have to offer at least one bouquet, referred to as basic service tier, of 100 free-to-air channels, including all the mandatorily channels to be provided to the subscribers as notified by the Central Government. This bouquet will be one of the options available for subscription to customers. It will be the subscriber who will be free to exercise his option.
  15. Any pay channel having A-la-carte MRP of more than Rs 19 per month (excluding taxes) shall not form part of any bouquet.

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