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As TRAI attempts to resolve broadcast sector’s pain points, what does future hold for NTO 2.0?

Unlike the previous dispensation, the new TRAI leadership team is holding open conversations with the broadcasters and DPOs, and are willing to solve the challenges that are blocking the implementation of NTO 2.0

The broadcasting industry and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) who earlier shared a patchy relationship, often leading to a war of words and legal challenges, are finally making efforts to make things right.

TRAI under its new Chairman PD Vaghela has been engaging both broadcasters and the DPOs to solve the thorny issues leading to the blockade of NTO 2.0. The regulator aims to implement NTO 2.0 by April next year. Meanwhile, it is willing to be flexible on concerns of both the broadcasters and cable operators.

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The regulator wants to give more flexibility to the broadcasters in matters such as the MRP, designing the bouquet and giving discounts on it. A senior official said that the regulator wants the industry to grow and increase its penetration across the nation, but one also needs to keep in mind that the cable bills should not increase steeply for consumers.

It may be recalled that the leading broadcasters had significantly hiked the MRPs of their driver channels in October after the regulator had asked them to comply with the provisions of NTO 2.0. This move by the broadcasters would have resulted in up to a 30-40% increase in consumers’ cable bills.

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"Broadcasters in India have a huge scope of expansion and they can add new viewers by keeping in mind affordability. As a regulator, TRAI is empathetic towards their business compulsions also and hence we are taking a flexible approach on the pain points that the industry has. That said, we also need to ensure that DPOs don't lose," the official said.

The broadcasting regulator has taken a more liberal view of the broadcasting industry and wants to keep a light regulatory touch instead of getting into the unnecessary business complexities of the industry.

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"We have just two concerns. One is that the consumer choice should not be squeezed and the second is that the cable bill shouldn't inflate beyond the affordability of the regular consumer. If broadcasters want to increase tariffs periodically, they may go for an incremental revision," the officer added.

Multiple sources across stakeholders confirmed that the new dispensation at the regulator is actively engaging them in order to find a win-win solution for all.

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“The new leadership of TRAI is not hesitant for reasonable course correction if there was an oversight in the policy framework. The general viewpoint developing from the series of meetings and consultations during the last one month is that the regulator and the broadcast industry will eventually be on the same page,” said a broadcast network’s top executive.

“The NTO and NTO 2.0 have had adverse effects on both the broadcast industry and the cable bills of the common man. With large broadcasters increasing MRPs of their flagship channels, the situation would have been far worse if the provisions of the NTO 2.0 were implemented. The tussle and confrontations between the regulator and broadcasters were harming the country. I have no reason to believe why a regressive policy framed on the basis of the backbiting of one stakeholder cannot be undone. It is indeed mindful of the new TRAI leadership of opening the doors for consultations with the intent to resolve this issue,” said an industry observer.

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