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TRAI floats consultation paper on issues related to cable operators in new tariff order

The deadline to submit the comment is September 5, 2023 while counter comments, if any, may be submitted by September 19, 2023

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Tuesday issued a consultation paper titled "Review of Regulatory Framework for Broadcasting and Cable Services" in order to address the issues related to cable operators.

The regulator had addressed the broadcasters’ issues in the previous amendment in November 2022, which came into effect from Februay 1, 2023.

On November 22, 2022, TRAI notified the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff (Third Amendment) Order, 2022 and the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) (Fourth Amendment) Regulations, 2022, which covered the following issues:

a) Continuance of forbearance on MRP of TV channels

b) Ceiling of Rs. 19/- on MRP of a TV Channel price for inclusion in bouquet

c) Discount of 45% on sum of the price of individual channels while forming bouquet

d) Additional Incentives of 15% by broadcaster to be permitted on Bouquets also

In order to address the remaining issues pertaining to Tariff, Interconnection and Quality of Service of Broadcasting and Cable services, the Authority has put up following 31 questions for consultation:

A. Tariff-related issues

1. Should the present ceiling of Rs.130/- on NCF be reviewed and revised?

2. Should TRAI follow any indices (like CPI/WPI/GDP Deflator) for revision of NCF on a periodic basis to arrive at the revised ceiling?

3. Whether DPOs should be allowed to have variable NCF for different bouquets/plans for and within a state/ City/ Town/ Village?

4. Should TRAI revise the current provision that NCF for 2nd TV connection and onwards in multi-TV homes should not be more than 40% of declared NCF per additional TV?

5. In the case of multi-TV homes, should the pay television channels for each additional TV connection be also made available at a discounted price?

6. Is there a need to review the ceiling on discount on sum of MRP of a-la-carte channels in a bouquet (as prescribed through the second provision to clause 4 (4) of the Tariff Order 2017) while fixing the MRP of that bouquet by DPOs?

7. Whether the total channel carrying capacity of a DPO can be defined in terms of bandwidth (in MBPS) assigned to specific channel(s).

8. Whether the extant prescribed HD/SD ratio which treats 1HD channel equivalent to 2SD channels for the purpose of counting number of channels in NCF should also be reviewed?

9. What measures should be taken to ensure similar reception quality to subscribers for similar genres of channels?

10. Should there be a provision to mandatorily provide the Free to Air News / Non-News / Newly Launched channels available on the platform of a DPO to all the subscribers?

11. Should Tariff Order 2017, Interconnection Regulations 2017 and Quality of Service Regulations 2017 be made applicable to non-addressable distribution platforms such as DD Free Dish also?

12. Should the channels available on DD Free Dish platform be mandatorily made available as Free to Air Channels for all the platforms including all the DPOs?

13. Whether there is a need to consider upgradation of DD Free Dish as an addressable platform?

B. Interconnection-related issues

14. In case of amendment to the RIO by the broadcaster, the extant provision provides an option for DPO to continue with the unamended RIO agreement. Should this option continue to be available for the DPO?

15. Sometimes, the amendment in RIO becomes expedient due to amendment in extant Regulation/ Tariff order. Should such an amendment of RIO be treated in a different manner?

16. Should it be mandated that the validity of any RIO issued by a broadcaster or DPO may be for say 1 year and all the Interconnection agreements may end on a common date say 31st December every year.

17. Should flexibility be given to DPOs for listing channels in EPG?

18.  Since MIB generally gives permission to a channel in multiple languages, how the placement of such channels may be regulated so that interests of all stakeholders are protected?

19. Should the revenue share between an MSO (including HITS Operator) and LCO as prescribed in Standard Interconnect Agreement be considered for a review?

20. Should there be a review of capping on carriage fee?

21. To increase penetration of HD channels, should the rate of carriage fee on HD channels and the cap on carriage fee on HD channels may be reduced? If yes, please specify the modified rate of carriage fee and the cap on carriage fee on HD channels.

22. Should TRAI consider removing capping on carriage fee for introducing forbearance?

23. In respect of DPO’s RIO-based agreement, if the broadcaster and DPO fail to enter into new interconnection agreement before the expiry of the existing agreement, the extant Interconnection Regulation provide that if the parties fail to enter into new agreement, DPO shall not discontinue carrying a television channel, if the signals of such television channel remain available for distribution and the monthly subscription percentage for that television channel is more than twenty percent of the monthly average active subscriber base in the target market. Does this specified percentage of 20% need a review?

C. Quality of Service related issues

24. Whether the extant charges prescribed under the ‘QoS Regulations’ need any modification required for the same?

25. Should TRAI consider removing capping on the above-mentioned charges for introducing forbearance? Please justify your response.

26. Whether the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) for consumer convenience should display

a. MRP only

b. MRP with DRP alongside

c. DRP only?

27. What periodicity should be adopted in the case of a pre-paid billing system?

28. Should the current periodicity for submitting subscriber channel viewership information to broadcasters be reviewed to ensure that the viewership data of every subscriber, even those who opt for the channel even for a day, is included in the reports?

29. MIB in its guidelines in respect of Platform Services has inter-alia stated the following:

a. The Platform Services Channels shall be categorised under the genre ‘Platform Services’ in the EPG.

b. Respective MRP of the platform service shall be displayed in the EPG against each platform service.

c. The DPO shall provide an option of activation /deactivation of platform services.

30. Is there a need to re-evaluate the provisions outlined in the ‘QoS Regulations’ in respect of:

a. Toll-free customer care number

b. Establishment of website

c. Consumer Corner

d. Subscriber Corner

e. Manual of Practice

f. Any other provision that needs to be re-assessed

D. Financial Disincentive

31. Should a financial disincentive be levied in case a service provider is found in violation of any provisions of Tariff Order, Interconnection Regulations and Quality of Service Regulations?

The deadline to submit the comment is September 5, 2023 while counter comments, if any, may be submitted by September 19, 2023.

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