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TRAI caps carriage fees, MRP of a channel to be a part of bouquets

The authority makes amendments to its Tariff Order to solve issues like heavy discounts by broadcasters via bouquet route and huge carriage fees among others

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has made significant amendments to its Tariff Order, Interconnection Regulations and Quality of Services Regulations of 2017 for the Broadcasting and Cable Services sector. The move will result in ‘capped monthly carriage fees’, capped pricing for pay channels to become a part of bouquets’, ‘capped number of bouquets of pay channels offered by broadcasters’ and ‘increased number of free-to-air channels’.

In a blow to multi-system operators and direct-to-home players, the regulator has capped the monthly carriage fees at Rs 4 lakh for broadcasting a channel in India. There was no cap on the amount operators could charge broadcasters previously.

Discount on the MRP of a channel via the bouquet route was another contentious issue on which broadcasters had taken the authority to the court. TRAI had set 15% discount cap on MRP initially and implemented the new tariff order on December 29, 2018, after omitting that part. Later, the authority decided to not pursue this in the court. Now, it has come up with new ways to handle the issue.

TRAI has reduced the ceiling price of pay channels for inclusion in bouquets from Rs 19 to Rs 12. This means while broadcasters are still free to price a channel, if they seek to include them in a bouquet, their à la carte price will be capped at Rs 12 plus taxes.

The authority has specified guidelines on pricing of TV channel bouquets. While forming the bouquet, broadcasters must ensure that the sum of the à la carte rates of pay channels in it shall not exceed one-and-a-half times the rate of the bouquet of which such pay channels are a part of. Further, the à la carte price of a channel can’t exceed three times the average rate of a pay channel of the bouquet, the order said.

TRAI also increased the number of free-to-air standard definition channels to be provided at a monthly cost of Rs 130 from 100 to 200. Cable operators were allowed to charge Rs 130 per month as network capacity fees within which they were supposed to provide 100 free-to-air channels. That has now been capped at Rs 160, with broadcasters given the flexibility to determine the free-to-air channels for different geographies.

The regulator said that the network connection fees on a second TV in any home cannot be charged more than 40% of the NCF charged for the first television along with the flexibility to choose a different set of channels for each TV connection.

The regulator has also allowed distribution platform operators to offer promotional schemes on a par with broadcasters, including discounts on network connection fees and distributor retail price on long-term subscriptions of a duration exceeding six months.

Broadcasters and multi-system operators are required to publish the revised pricing by January 15 and January 20, respectively. Consumers will be able to benefit from the new framework from March 1.

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