After failing to get any respite from the Delhi High Court, the country’s leading DTH operator Tata Sky has started the implementation of the new TV channel pricing regime notified by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in late December.
TRAI had provided operators and broadcasters a month to migrate to the tariff regime that provides consumers the options to pay for only those channels they want to watch instead of paying for bundle plans. It is mandatory for all stakeholders to move to the new system by February 1.
Tata Sky, along with Airtel and Sun Direct DTH, was hoping for some relief from the Delhi High Court. However, on Thursday, the case was adjourned for its next hearing on January 28 and the court did not provide Tata Sky any protection against fines or penalties for its failure to implement the new tariff plans. Earlier also, the Delhi High Court had already told the DTH company that if it chooses to wait, it would be doing so at its own risk.
Speaking on the development, Harit Nagpal, Managing Director and CEO, Tata Sky, said, “Tata Sky has always been compliant to regulatory requirements. We have gone live with our modes of communication across the Tata Sky website, Tata Sky Mobile App and also equipped the dealers that subscribers can reach out to.”
“We were confident that we would be able to complete the task in one week’s time, hence we used this time to create a seamless and smooth transition for all our subscribers. We have ensured that choosing channels and packs is as easy as Steps 1, 2 and 3 for any subscriber,” he added.
After February 1, 2019, TRAI's new regime will come into effect and subscribers will pay only for the channels they have chosen to watch on their DTH or cable connection, rather than being bound by packs decided by the DTH companies or cable operators.
BestMediaInfo.com had reported on Thursday that Tata Sky’s website was not updated to reflect the pricing for channels under the new guidelines and was reflecting the la-carte pricing of Star Plus HD as Rs 30 against the capped price of Rs 19. However, the website has been updated now and is reflecting the new pricing of Rs 22.42, including GST.
However, other DTH players Airtel and Sun Direct have not updated their websites in compliance with TRAI’s new tariff order.
Airtel’s website is running a disclaimer stating: “Dear Customer, please be informed that all pack constructs and prices will undergo a change at a short notice. Such change is the outcome of the new regulatory framework prescribed by TRAI.”
In its petition against TRAI's new regulatory framework where other players such as Bharti Telemedia-owned Airtel Digital TV and Sun Direct are also part of it, Tata Sky has specifically asked the court to understand how TRAI came to the decision to implement the upcoming tariff plan. The operator also argues that the new guidelines will impact the business adversely, and impact profitability as well.
Earlier, Star India had also challenged TRAI on similar issues in the Madras High Court. The court upheld the tariff order implementation, which Star TV then challenged in the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court order is anything to go by, the current legal battles could also go in TRAI’s favour. The apex court had noted that one of the TRAI’s functions was to “facilitate competition and promote efficiency in the operation of telecommunication services (which includes broadcasting services) so as to facilitate growth in such services.”
Last month, TRAI had withdrawn its appeal before the Supreme Court to reinstate the 15% cap on discounting of channel bouquets under the new MRP-based tariff order.
The 15% cap, part of TRAI’s new MRP-based tariff order, was set aside by the Madras High Court on a plea filed by Star India, following which the authority had moved the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, TRAI in its latest press release issued on January 24 reiterated, “In order to protect the interest of service providers and the consumers and to ensure orderly growth of the sector, directs all the broadcasters of television channels to comply with all the provisions of the new regulatory framework from February 1, 2019.”