Chennai forum urges TRAI to hold back its new framework

Chennai: When everyone thought this December would end in a good note, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) regulatory framework for television channels which comes into effect 29 December has left the country in a confused state.

While TRAI says the new rules have brought transparency, some consumers allege that they will soon be forced to pay more for all good channels.

According to the new framework, consumers can pay for only for the channels they want to view. TRAI has prescribed a basic fee of Rs 130 plus 18 per cent GST, which is called Network Capacity Fee (NCF), by paying which a consumer can select 100 channels, including 26 mandatory Doordarshan channels. S/he can get 25 more channels in this category by paying additional Rs 20.

While these channels include both Free-To-Air (FTA) and pay channels, consumers will have to pay the MRP fixed by broadcasters over and above the NCF to view pay channels. Apart from this, viewers can choose individual pay channels, a la carte or bouquet (multiple). TRAI has fixed a price range of Rs 1 to Rs 19 as MRP for pay channels.

Speaking to News Today, city-based Senior Citizen Forum secretary T N Srinivasan, said, “Out of the 298 million homes in India, only 197 million homes have televisions as per a survey. Still, it has to reach 100 million homes. Also, Tamilnadu government owned M/s Arasu Cable Corporation’s DAS license is also pending before Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) after their provisional DAS license expired August 2017. So, in such a state, I request for holding back the new regulations as they are contradictory to the earlier statements of both TRAI and broadcasters. They had clearly stated that, when DAS is implemented, total transparency on account of number of TVs connected on the ground will arrive and, hence, the price per channel will get drastically reduced to as low as Rs 1.10 paise from TRAI determined CAS regime rates.”

“In other Asian countries, pay channels’ prices are regulated and fixed under Rs 5 by the respective regulators as pay channels are allowed to raise huge revenue through advertisements. In India too pay channels raise several thousand crores through advertisements. Despite this TRAI has allowed pay channels to fix up to Rs 19 per channel from the earlier Rs 4.65 in CAS Regime. A whooping 400 per cent hike has been allowed. So, I request TRAI to wait till CAS to DAS migration which will reduce the cost of each pay channel as informed by broadcasters and TRAI / MIB at the early stages of DAS consultations. Also, TRAI’ recommendations has to be tabled in Cabinet for approval or rejection,” he added.

Chairman reacts
 Recently TRAI chairman R S Sharma came down heavily on those opposing the framework. He said, “The highest court of law has declared that the regulation is consumer-friendly. However, certain players are carrying out a misinformation campaign with ulterior motives to create fear in the minds of people and defeat this framework. These are unfounded. What we have done is a fundamental shift. But things will settle down soon. The purpose is to ensure that consumer is the king.”

 

100 channels, the deal breakers
 According to a survey, out of the more than 550 channels that are available at an all-India level, on average, a viewer watches a maximum of 212 channels in a quarter. Further, at a monthly level, 80 per cent of the viewership comes from about 100 channels.

 

S Ben Raja