Trai issues consultation paper on digital addressable Cable TV systems

NEW DELHI: Issues relating to composition and Tariff of Basic Service Tier (BST); retail tariff; pre-paid billing; interconnection issues; and revenue share between MSOs and LCOs are the focus of a new Consultation Paper issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on "Issues related to Implementation of Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems".

The paper, issued in the wake of Parliament passing the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill, also addresses issues like Quality of Service Standards and redressal of Consumer Complaints

The broadcasting Industry with about 150 million TV households is set for a major transformation. The analog nature of the cable TV service, which caters to around 94 million households, has been the roadblock in exploiting the full potential of the sector in the era of convergence.

Keeping this in view, Trai in consultation with all the stakeholders had in August 2010 recommended to the Government complete digitisation with addressability of the Cable TV services, in a phased manner. Subsequently, the Government issued a notification on 11 November 2011 in this connection with addressability in a phased manner to be completed by December 2014.

The smooth transition to Digital Addressable system would involve various measures. In order to facilitate this transformation, Trai in consultation with the stakeholders has identified certain key issues that need to be determined.

All these issues have been discussed in the consultation paper specifically bringing out the issues for consultation.

Written comments on the issues raised in this consultation paper are invited from the stakeholders by 16 January 2012, and counter-comments on the comments by 23 January 2012. It has been made clear that there will be no extension of time.
Trai wants to know whether an ad-free channel is viable in the context of Indian television market and should there be a separate prescription in respect of tariff for ad-free channels at both the wholesale and retail level. Furthermore, what should the provisions in the interconnection regulations in respect of ad-free channels be and what should the revenue sharing arrangement be between broadcasters and distributors in respect of ad-free channels.

Stakeholders have been asked to suggest the minimum number of free-to-air (FTA) channels that a cable operator should offer in the basic-service-tier and whether this should be different for different states, cities, towns or areas of the country.

In the composition of BST, stakeholders have been asked to suggest the genre-wise (entertainment, information, education etc.) mix of channels and the pricing of BST.

Trai has sought to know whether the retail tariff should be determined by it or left to market forces and should the a-la-carte channel price at the retail be linked to its
wholesale price.

Those replying will also suggest whether there should be a common ceiling across all genres for the pay channels or different ceilings for different genres and what these ceilings should be in each case.

Suggestions have also been sought on whether any of the existing clauses of the Interconnection Regulations require modifications and whether Trai should determine the subscription revenue share between the MSO and LCO or leave it to the negotiations between the two.

Stakeholders should advise whether the ‘must carry‘ provision should be mandated for the MSOs, operating in the DAS areas and the qualifying conditions when a broadcaster seeks access to the MSO network under the provision of ‘must carry‘. In case the ‘must carry‘ is mandated, what should be the manner in which an MSO should offer access of its network, for the carriage of TV channel, on nondiscriminatory terms to the broadcasters.

Should the carriage fee be regulated for the digital addressable cable TV systems in
India and how, Trai wants to know. Should the quantum of carriage fee be linked to some parameters and should these parameters be linked to the carriage fee.

Can a cap be placed on the quantum of carriage fee, asks TRAI, adding whether it should prescribe a standard interconnection agreement between service providers on similar lines as that for notified CAS areas with conditions as applicable for DAS areas.

TRAI wants to know if there is an impact on the wholesale channel rates after the sunset date - 31 December 2014.

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