Heated meeting in Trai throws up packaging, billing issues

NEW DELHI: A heated meeting between the sector regulator, MSOs and broadcasters, which first saw the MSOs take a beating, ended with the regulator asking the broadcasters too, to get their act together and work out plans with MSOs regarding packages.

The MSOs in their turn have promised to settle the issue of billing on customer choice-basis by 30 March, and give daily feedbacks to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in the established format.

One of the MSOs has reportedly informed Trai that the data available from the SMS systems and the customer choice forms have been handed over to the broadcasters yesterday, and they have urged the latter to study it.

The MSOs have said in the meeting that the data would worry the broadcasters, as they clearly show that the channels which were supposed to be popular were not so, as reflected in the forms filled up by the customers.


Less than 25 per cent of old customers who had a free run of the channels have requested for channels that the broadcasters once projected to advertisers as ‘most popular‘, as the picture seems to have emerged.

MSOs have assured Trai and the broadcasters present in the meeting that they would give full access to any kind of data on the SMS, for broadcasters to verify and satisfy themselves, and ask questions right down to individual customers and cross-check data, sources told

On the issue of interconnection contracts, some MSOs have suggested that the arrangements should be worked out between them and the broadcasters, to which Trai had retorted that they have taken inordinate time, but nothing has happened.

MSOs have said that they would make an effort to sit down and if nothing happens, the regulator would be free to step in and take the needed decision.


MSOs held that, for instance, in the case of the recent series of cricket matches, various suggestions have been made to broadcasters to form meaningful packages, but the channels have stepped back on that.

Trai had asked for details of seeded boxes and customer choices from the MSOs in a consolidated form and most of these were handed over, with MSOs saying that they have no objection if broadcasters are given access to that.

The MSOs have admitted that some customers have not yet stated their choices in the forms, but the invoices for such customers can be worked out between the broadcasters and MSOs mutually, they have said.

On the issue of paybacks on per-customer basis, the broadcasters, sources say, had asked what the MSOs intended to do.

The MSOs have said that whatever data is there in the SMS and customer choice data handed over to the broadcasters, the latter would have the agreed share of their revenue.

What has been discussed is the issue of a modality for switch off for those customers who are stubborn about not putting in their choices formally on the forms. But nothing concrete has emerged out of this so far, sources said.

One of the MSOs have stated that they had in 2003, come to some agreement with broadcasters regarding this issue and Trai has asked the MSO to state clearly and in detail what such arrangements were.

The MSOs have reiterated their position, stating that Cas has thrown open a programming challenge in terms of packaging, and it seems, from reports emanating from yesterday‘s meeting, that the broadcasters would "per force, due to the recent SMS and customer choice revelations" be pulled into some kind of a meaningful engagement with MSOs.

The broadcasters have to work out what is best for them in the context of a situation in which Cas is a reality, extension of mandatory Cas is on the anvil and customers have shown that they have a mind that neither MSOs nor broadcasters have read in a manner that would have them do business in a liberalised, consumer-based economy.


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