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Is TRAI’s logic of top five broadcasters filling limited network capacity faulty?

Bombay High Court may turn down this logic if TRAI goes ahead with it in its reply in an affidavit on Wednesday

Justifying the cap on bouquet formation in the New Tariff Order (NTO) 2.0, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has said the top five broadcasters fill the limited network capacity by pushing their niche and second-rung channels through bouquets which makes it difficult for small and independent channels to find a way to the consumer.

At a recently held press conference, TRAI Secretary Sunil Gupta and Chairman RS Sharma accused the 'top five broadcasters' of manipulating and twisting the rules in their favour, which was killing small broadcasters. During the conference, the TRAI officials mentioned 'Those five broadcasters' a number of times and projected them as a cartel.


TRAI claimed the amendments in NTO 2.0 were made with the intention of stopping the top five from killing small broadcasters. The regulator has, intentionally or unintentionally, made the NTO 2.0 as 'TRAI versus the big five' order.

But even as the regulator’s intention could be to make the NTO a win-win proposition for all, it must do away with the ‘them versus us’ approach.


TRAI Secretary Gupta has been earlier quoted saying that the “Top five broadcasters have changed their FTA channels to pay and ensured that they are made part of the bouquet so that it can be pushed along with their driver channels to the consumers. This has resulted in a non-level playing field for those who are actually niche and regional broadcasters. They face serious problems because of two reasons: there were 100 FTA channels available for a network capacity fee of Rs 130, which included about 25 mandatory DD channels. So, there was limited capacity for the consumer. And when this type of bouquet was pushed, the available capacity was reduced. Therefore, if people want to take regional FTA channels also, because of NCF, they have to pay an additional fee. So, many of the regional and niche pay broadcasters had to convert their pay channels to FTA to exist into the market. 12 channels were converted to FTA by such broadcasters.” asked a senior official at a large distribution network if there is anything called limited capacity when it comes to FTA channels. And, the answer was ‘no’. None of those five broadcasters push FTA channels in the bouquet as all of them converted their FTA channels to ‘pay’ at the beginning of NTO implementation. The pay channels might be pushed by broadcasters along with their driver channels but they never filled the 75-channel capacity meant for FTAs.

In the new tariff order, DPOs were mandated to carry 75 FTA channels from private broadcasters for a basic network capacity fee of Rs 130. NTO 2.0 asks them to carry 200 FTA channels at Rs 130 and unlimited FTA channels at Rs 160.

A senior executive at a niche broadcaster, who is satisfied with the regulator’s effort to save the company’s interests, told the NTO 2.0 was a result of consistent complaints from over 300 broadcasters and many DPOs against the monopoly of large broadcast networks. “But TRAI’s statement about limited capacity does not hold ground or mean anything in the context of top five broadcasters. This logic seems to have stemmed from borrowed wisdom and looks like a forced fit,” the executive said.

“I am afraid the Bombay High Court may turn down this logic if TRAI goes ahead with it in its reply in the form of an affidavit tomorrow,” the executive added.

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