Technology

Tdsat asks Trai to review tariff order for DTH and addressabe cable

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (Tdsat) has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to study again in-depth the entire scenario relating to tariff for addressable and non addressable systems.


This is in response to Trai‘s order that "the a-la-carte rate for a pay channel for addressable systems shall not be more than 35 per cent of the a-la-carte rate of the channel as specified by the broadcaster for non-addressable systems".


This rate had been fixed in the proviso to Clause Four of the Telecommunication (Broadcasting & Cable) Services (Fourth) (Addressable System Order) 2010 issued on 21 July which came into effect from 1 September this year.


Earlier, broadcasters charged from DTH and IPTV players 50 per cent of what they got from cable operators.


Tdsat chairperson SB Sinha and members GD Gaiha and PK Rastogi in their order said Trai should start the process of tariff fixation upon taking the relevant factors into consideration afresh and should for the purpose of laying down tariffs undertake a detailed study of the same.
 
The order came on appeals by ESPN, Zee Turner, Star Den, MSM Discovery, Sun TV Network, Viacom18, Ushodaya Enterprises of Hyderabad, and Neo Sports against the Trai Tariff Order. Some of the DTH operators with DTH Operators Association of India as also other MSOs have been impleaded as parties, as also the Tamil Nadu Progressive Consumer Centre.


On 23 August, broadcasters had moved Tdsat challenging Trai‘s tariff order to cap wholesale price of channels to service providers like DTH and IPTV.


The broadcasters had submitted that while fixing the tariff, Trai had acted in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner and did not consider the suggestions of the stakeholders.


At the outset, the Tdsat bench admitted it had not been able to deliver judgement for several reasons. "One of these being long arguments and a clarification sought for subsequently by us with regard to inter alia, the applicability of Section 11(1)(b)(iv) vis-a-vis Section 11(2) of the Trai Act and also due to non-filing of Written Statements by some of the counsel in time," it said.


Noting that it had been accepted by every stakeholder that almost all the problems would be solved if "addressability‘ is achieved, the tribunal said it failed to ‘understand why the Government has not taken adequate measure in this behalf. Even in the capital town of Delhi, it has not been fully achieved."


The Tribunal expressed the hope that the target fixed by Trai will receive adequate attention of the Government and it would implement the recommendations in letter and spirit.


Only Chennai had implemented Cas in full and the other three metros had only implemented this in pockets.
 
Noting that it was clear that the DTH system was the most popular form of an addressable system, there cannot be any doubt or dispute that the vices attached to the non-addressable system can be eliminated provided the addressable system is put in place completely. The Tribunal, therefore, welcomed the move by Trai to set goals.


Noting that the Supreme Court had asked Trai to proceed to carry out its exercise without in any way being influenced by the observations made by this Tribunal or the High Courts, the Tribunal said "Trai unfortunately, did not do so and proceeded on the basis of the observations made by this Tribunal." It opined that making of a tariff order would be imperative in view of the order of the High Court.


According to the broadcasters, the advertisement revenue payable to the DTH operators would be more than Rs 88 billion. Pay channel broadcasters pay only Rs 2.85 billion as carriage/placement.


The tribunal said by the Tariff Order, two unequals were being treated equally. In the case of analogue under declaration is rampant; in another, it is nil. In one case, it is difficult to find out the acted viewership; in another it is not so. In one viewers have no choice or limited choice but in another the viewers can exercise their choices to the fullest extent.


The tribunal also accepted the view that sports channels are a class by themselves and the difficulties faced by them have not been adequately addressed. The cost components of a sports channel cannot be compared with the general entertainment channels. Moreover, the cost of procuring content has been increasing over the years.


It, therefore, said "it is no ground to contend that the sportscasters are aware of the tariff and, thus, they should mould their business model which should address that situation." 

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