FAQ | Industry

TV choices, a la carte: How the new TRAI regulatory framework will pan out

The survey was conducted covering 3,00,000 households.

The survey was conducted covering 3,00,000 households.   | Photo Credit: gpetric

What does TRAI’s new regulation say?

The new regulatory framework by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which comes into effect from February 1, will apply to all direct-to-home (DTH) and local cable operators. Under these rules, customers can choose which channels they wish to watch rather than pick from pre-decided packs offered by service providers. Accordingly, consumers will only need to pay for channels they want to view.

Why was this change needed?

According to TRAI, post-digitisation of cable TV networks in March 2017, there was an urgent need to improve transparency as many stakeholders were not giving choices to consumers. The new regulatory framework has been introduced after a consultative process that lasted more than one-and-a-half years.

Do the new rules benefit consumers?

The new framework makes it mandatory for the service provider to offer every channel on an a la carte basis. Additionally, the MRP of the channels needs to be displayed on the TV screen through the Electronic Program Guide. Along with giving customers a la carte choice, broadcasters and distributors can offer bouquets of channels. However, the price of the bouquet is also to be published transparently. Given that the MRP of the channels will be displayed to users, the distributor will not be able to charge more than what has been declared by a broadcaster. This is likely to bring down the monthly cable/DTH bill.

How much will consumers need to pay?

The framework puts in place a network capacity fee with an upper ceiling of ₹130 for 100 channels. Any subscriber who opts for more than 100 channels can choose additional channels in each slab of 25 channels with a maximum price of ₹20 per slab. A high definition channel will be treated as two standard definition (SD) channels for the purpose of determining the network capacity fee.

According to TRAI, less than 15% of consumers are likely to opt for more than 100 channels. The regulator has put out some examples of the probable packs in different markets on its website. For the Tamil-speaking market, one package costs ₹294 a month, including taxes for 100 SD channels. This pack includes 23 paid channels, 52 free-to-air channels and 25 Doordarshan channels. In addition to a ₹130 network capacity fee for 100 channels, the consumer will have to pay MRP for the 23 paid channels (amounting to ₹119) and the GST (₹45). Depending on the number and price of the paid channels, the bill may go up.

What if subscription charges are paid ahead?

In case a subscriber has paid advance charges for a scheme with a future lock-in period like an annual plan, the distributor will continue to provide services for the committed period without any increase in price or charges and without altering the other terms of subscription. Distributors cannot make any changes that may lead to a disadvantage to the subscriber in such cases, the regulator has said. However, if the subscriber wants to switch over to a new package after February 1, the proportional balance amount of the existing package as on the date of switchover may be adjusted for the new package prices.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:10:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/tv-choices-a-la-carte/article26006645.ece

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