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Parliament panel calls for consumer-centric TV channel pricing

To address the concerns of the industry, the panel believes that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting needs to ensure that the proposed “Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023” is passed at the earliest

The 56th Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology highlighted issues surrounding cable TV regulations, the disparity between OTT and Cable, advertising guidelines for Pay TV and FTA channels and the reduction in workforce in Cable TV.

To address the concerns of the industry, the panel believes that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting needs to ensure that the proposed “Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023” is passed at the earliest. It also urged the Ministry to take initiatives for making the Ministry as the registering authority for LCOs. 

Addressing the prevalence of broadcasters leveraging the channel bundle plan, the committee has issued the following guidelines:

  1. The Committee noted that broadcasters give substantial discounts on the pricing of their bouquets while having separate prices for individual channels. The committee believed that the significant increase in their Pay TV channel prices after bundling them together, puts a strain on the consumer’s choice.
  2. To mitigate this, the panel suggested that the Distribution Platform  Operators (DPOs) be granted the authority to select individual channels from broadcasters' bouquets.
  3. The DPOs should be permitted to choose channels based on consumer preferences and remit to broadcasters the proportional price of the selected channels.

The panel also echoed concerns raised by the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) that broadcasters have substantially increased Pay TV channel prices.

The advertising guidelines for Pay TV and Free-to-air channels aren’t well demarcated and the committee believed the channels need to be categorised based on their respective sources of revenue. Addressing this further, the committee laid down the following:

  1. Recommendation for initiating a comprehensive consultation focused on the costing methodology of TV channels.
  2. This consultation should also aim to tackle the issue where consumers,  who are essentially paying subscription fees, find themselves subjected to advertisements for a significant duration of their viewing experience.

The committee recognises the decline in the workforce in Cable TV with the advent of technology and called upon the Ministry to apprise about the measures envisaged to address this issue.

Addressing the existing  disparity between Cable TV and OTT Platforms, the committee highlighted:

  1. The Ministry is recommended to enact a  comprehensive regulatory framework for Broadcasters to make their content accessible on all available platforms. This would ensure a level playing field for cable television and analogous technologies.
  2. The committee believes this would aid in promoting fairness, diversity, and accessibility in the content distribution landscape, benefiting both consumers and industry stakeholders.

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