Latest TRAI rule: Choosing channels for TV is messy affair

When the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) announced that television aficionados will be able to choose what channels they want to watch, the first reaction was mixed. While some saw the demerits of the plans swimming in a pool of confusion, others were quite happy and it was easy to see why.

The move allowed people to pick and choose any channel they wanted and that meant getting rid of all the unnecessary channels that people had in their packs. Those who were using digital TV or dish TV as it is known in Tamilnadu at least, were quite relieved. But as with many cases with India’s complex decision-making machine, the initiative was quite messed up as well.

For example, when I recently visited my friend’s home, his father was trying to get his head around how to pick and choose the channels for his dish TV. The operator had sent his father a QR code and the poor old person did not know how to scan the thing. He was also worried about what his friends would be doing for they had only normal phones with them in which the QR code does not even load up.

Further, TRAI only this week announced that operators can move their subscribers to a ‘Best Fit Plan’ of their own will.
If that was troubling, then think about those having cable connection in their homes. Yes, it is still a reality in India and it was also the most cheapest for not everyone can afford a dish TV at home.

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At my home, I used to pay around Rs 200 every month and we used to get a 100 trillion channels, half of which we did not know the names of. However, after the plan was implemented, the cable guy said my monthly due was Rs 155 and handed out a form to fill.

Now that is something that should be avoided in a family because immediately a fight broke out. Mom wanted her set of channels to watch serial drama while dad wanted news channels. My brother and I wanted channels that showed movies and sports and by the time we were done selecting channels, and missing out on a lot, the operator told us that we will have to pay Rs 275 every month.

Immediately coming to a conclusion, dad and mom said the amount was preposterous and asked the cable guy why it costs so much. He answered simply that every add-on channel attracts GST above the rate.

At the other end of the spectrum, dish TV subscribers who had paid the annual amount (to save money in the long run) were left perplexed because the operators did not say anything about giving their back their money and insisted that subscribers pay if they want to continue services.

However, after much furore, operators have stated that the money will be put into their TV account. That means whether people like it or not, they will have to watch TV until their money runs out.

If this is all a bit complex, think about this like choosing an ice cream. Once you choose the flavour (the base pack), you can then add toppings like choco chips, gems, oreo and almonds (additional channels) and the add-ons cost money

One wise man, whom I’d met while taking my dog for a walk, summed up the scenario perfectly. People can be forced to do things, in this case pick channels, by operators. But if they are pushed too hard, they will start to retaliate: in this case, it translates into having the TV connection terminated, he said.

And he was right. Who says people can’t live without watching telly?

Praveen Kumar S