People are still in a tizzy over new tariff regime for the broadcasting sector. While some are saying that new broadcast tariff regime would increase bill amounts of cable TV and DTH subscribers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said the new framework may actually decrease TV bills.
TV bills to decrease?
The Crisil report on Monday said, “The network capacity fee (NCF) and channel prices announced by broadcasters and distributors as per TRAI’s new guidelines could increase the monthly bill of most subscribers of television channels.”
Addressing the media, TRAI Chairman Ram Sevak Sharma however said that the report was prepared on an “inadequate understanding” of the TV distribution market and it was incorrect. “The report is based on choosing top-rated channels on all-India basis and considers only one weekly report dated January 25, 2019, from TV Rating Agency, BARC,” a TRAI statement said. TRAI Secretary S K Gupta further added, “In three months, we expect prices of various channels to go down.”
So what has happened so far since the new tariff regime has come into force
TRAI has unveiled the new tariff order and regulatory regime for the broadcast and cable sector, which would pave the way for consumers to opt for channels they wish to view and pay only for them. It had said every channel should be offered a la carte, with a transparent display of rates on electronic programme guide.
To help consumers, TRAI came up with ‘Channel Selector Application’ to help users selecting channels for their cable TV or DTH connection, and understand the new cable TV Bill and rules better. While launching the new application, TRAI has said that the particular channel selector application will help users optimise their selection and inform them about the Maximum Retail Price of each and every channel. After a user has decided their television channels, they will then need to go to the website of their TV service provider and inform them of the choice or get in touch with the local cable operator.
The new tariff regime for cable and DTH TV services, which mandates consumers to select channels of their choice — either individual channels or bouquets — came into effect on February 1. After this, TRAI received information that while migrating consumers, one large service provider has caused a blackout on the TV screen of a few thousand subscribers.
Taking a serious view, the regulator has issued showcause notice to that service provider. However, TRAI neither identified the player nor divulged any details. According to reports, TRAI has served a show-cause notice to Airtel over the blackout faced by some of its DTH customers during the switchover to the new tariff regime.
Complaints and Grievances
People have taken their complaints to social media, saying many DTH and cable operators are simply refusing to allow users to edit or change their base packs. Instead, consumers have complained, these cable and DTH operators are telling their customers that the ‘base pack’ cannot be changed and that any pack they add will be over and above this.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has issued new directions to cable and DTH operators prohibiting them from forcing any channel other than Doordarshan’s on their consumers in the name of ‘base packs’ or ‘basic service tier’, and also set up a call centre to deal with such complaints.
“The Authority has been informed that some service providers are pushing certain packages, not allowing choice within first 100 channels, providing certain FTA channels irrespective of consumer’s options etc. The Authority has taken note of such issues and has directed the distribution platform operators to follow the regulation in letter and spirit. The consumer choice and paying only for what the consumer wishes to watch is the power, the new framework gives to subscribers. The subscribers are free to choose Free to Air channels and/or pay channels either on a-la carte or in the form of bouquet or any combination thereof, even within the first one hundred channels,” TRAI said.
For addressing consumer’s complaints, the TRAI has given a phone number and email ID for consumers to register their complaints about any such errant behaviour by their cable or DTH operator. “In case any DTH / Cable Operator is insisting on predefined pack or bouquets without providing real choices, subscribers may report the same at TRAI call centre 0120 – 6898689 or e-mail at [email protected],” it added.