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IBF terms NTO amendments arbitrary, says TRAI restricting broadcasters ability to earn revenue

By introducing amendments in the National Tariff order, TRAI has restricted the broadcaster’s ability to earn revenues, say senior members of the Indian Broadcast Federation. The industry leaders claim broadcasters have lost over 12 million subscribers and Rs 1,000 crore because of the TRAI order

The Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) has called the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) decision to reduce the carriage fee as ‘arbitrary’.

According to industry leaders, TRAI’s decision to tweak the New Tariff Order (NTO) has hurt the government’s ‘ease of doing business’ agenda and has led to loss of over 12 million subscribers.

The recent amendments in the National Tariff order had the members of the broadcasting foundation holding a press conference on Friday, where the broadcasters expressed their dissatisfaction with the recent changes, which they have termed ‘arbitrary’.

Addressing a question on TRAI’s view that the reduction in carriage fee will help the broadcasters, NP Singh, IBF President and CEO, Sony Pictures Networks India, said even if the reduction in carriage fees helps a few broadcasters, the new NTO restricts the ability to generate overall revenues.

“The carriage reduction will certainly help some broadcasters, but if your overall ability to earn revenues is restricted then your existence itself is a question. Then how will the carriage reduction help, it’s only one cost line that’s going down,” he said.

Addressing the media at the event, Singh said TRAI has issued more than 36 tariff orders in the last 15 years. He said this further hampers the Government’s policy of ‘ease of doing business’. He said the collective cost of the broadcasters was over Rs 1,000 crore in communicating the changes to the consumers. He also said there was an estimated loss of 12.5 million subscribers.

On January 1, 2020, the TRAI notified new amendments to the New Tariff Order and the interconnection regulations for broadcasting sector. Singh said there was no need for the new amendments and also insisted that more time should have been given for the industry to settle down with the previous amendments.

Uday Shankar, President of Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific, and Chairman of Star India, said people need to understand the implications of the changes. He said if a successful tariff revision was done last year, then what is the need for this one. He further said if the TRAI is concerned about bringing down the prices for the consumers, why is it that the DPOs are allowed to charge Rs 160 for providing free-to-air channels.

Addressing a question about the future of the relationship between the broadcasters and DPOs, Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom 18 India, said the DPOs and broadcasters are a part of the same industry and he sees no reason their relationship would change. “We are part of the same industry and ecosystem. We have had very good relations; I don’t see how anything of that sort should change. Of course, we will keep our points and in any relationship, there are agreements and disagreements. In a longer time frame, we do business together we support each other in order to deliver,” he said.

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