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TRAI addresses DPO’s issues in NTO; recommends upgrading DD Freedish

The regulator has abolished the ceiling on NCF, increased the limit of discounts offered by DPOs, and made it mandatory to declare FTA channels

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday addressed the long-due issues raised by DPOs as it amended the Tariff Order 2017, Interconnection Regulations 2017, and QoS Regulation 2017.

The regulator addressed the broadcasters’ concerns last year with NTO 3.0.

Through its amendments on Monday, the regulator has abolished the ceiling on NCF, increased the limit of discounts offered by DPOs, and made it mandatory to declare FTA channels. 

In order to address cable operators’ issues, the authority floated a consultation paper, ‘Review of Regulatory Framework for Broadcasting and Cable Services’ on August 8, 2023, to seek comments from stakeholders. 

The concerns included Network Capacity Fee (NCF), a discount limit on the sum of MRP of a-la-carte channels for fixing MRP of bouquets by the distributors of TV channels (Distribution Platform Operators-DPOs), the equivalence of an HD channel in terms of SD channels for capacity calculations, mandatory FTA News Channels in all packs formed by the DPOs, and level playing field with DD Free Dish, among others. 

Additionally, TRAI also recommended that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) notify the upgradation of Prasar Bharati’s ‘DD Free Dish’ platform to an addressable system in a phased manner within a specified timeframe to ensure the quality of viewing experience, prevent unauthorised re-transmission of the television channels to combat piracy and maintain the record of subscribers.

Amendments to the Tariff Order:

  • The ceilings of Rs 130 for 200 channels and Rs 160 for more than 200 channels have been removed from the Network Capacity Fee (NCF) and are kept under forbearance to make it market-driven as well as equitable. 

TRAI said, “The service provider may now charge different NCFs based on several channels, different regions, different customer classes, or any combination thereof. To ensure transparency, all such charges have to be mandatorily published by the service providers and communicated to the consumers besides reporting to the TRAI.”

  • DPOs have now been permitted to offer discounts up to 45% while forming their bouquets to enable flexibility for them in forming bouquets and to offer attractive deals to consumers. Earlier, this discount was permitted only up to 15%.
  • A pay channel available at no subscription fee on the DTH platform of the public service broadcaster has to be declared free-to-air by the broadcaster of the channel for all the addressable distribution platforms as well, so as to have a level playing field.
  • DPOs have been mandated to declare tariffs on their platform services.

Interconnection regulations

With the proliferation of HD television sets and to encourage the transmission of high-definition content, the distinction between HD and SD channels has been removed for the purpose of carriage fees.

"The carriage fee regime simplified and made technology-neutral by prescribing only single ceiling for carriage fee, thereby, providing the DPOs with the option to charge a lesser carriage fee as deemed appropriate,” notified TRAI. 

"The above measures are expected to not only simplify the offerings of the service providers to the consumers but also promote the availability of high-quality channels,” added TRAI. 

QoS Regulations

  • Charges for services like installation and activation, visiting, relocation and temporary suspension, which were prescribed earlier under regulation, have now been kept under forbearance. DPOs have to publish the charges of their services for clarity and transparency to consumers.
  • Relaxation of certain regulatory compliances for small DPOs.
  • Duration/Term/Validity of all prepaid subscriptions to be specified in the number of days only for greater clarity for the consumers.
  • DPOs may display Distributor Retail Price (DRP) in the electronic programme guide (EPG) along with MRP for channels.
  • DPOs to categorise platform service channels under the genre 'Platform Services' in the EPG.
  • DPOs to display the respective MRP of the platform service channel in the EPG against each platform service to ensure transparency.
  • DPOs to provide an option of activation/deactivation of any platform service.
  • Financial disincentives have been introduced for contravention to provisions of the Tariff Order and certain other provisions of the Interconnection Regulation and QoS Regulation to ensure the accountability of service providers.

Recommendations

TRAI recommended that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) notify the upgradation of Prasar Bharati’s ‘DD Free Dish’ platform to an addressable system.

TRAI recommended that Prasar Bharati should run awareness campaigns through TV scrolls, advertisements in print media, and/or other suitable means to inform the consumers about various timelines for transitioning ‘DD Free Dish’ to an addressable system and replacement of their existing non-addressable STB with the new addressable STB to continue receiving the signals of the television channels of the private broadcasters, besides making them aware about the benefits of using addressable STBs.

TRAI also recommended that with effect from April 1, 2025, signals of permitted satellite television channels of the private broadcasters available on the platform of ‘DD Free Dish’ should be encrypted before uplinking. Additionally, signals of other television channels, including educational channels of the Government, Doordarshan channels and radio channels of Prasar Bharati may continue to be uplinked unencrypted. 

The Authority further recommended that eventually all the television channels including the DD channels, should be mandatorily encrypted before uplinking from the ‘DD Free Dish’ headend within four years from the date notified for stopping the sale of non-addressable STBs. 

Moreover, the sale of non-addressable STBs should be prohibited in the market from January 1, 2025, in consultation with MeitY, after arrangements for the provision of addressable STBs are put in place by the public service broadcaster.

 

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India DPOs TRAI DD Freedish Cable operators
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