Trai reviews cable TV tariff in Cas areas

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is reviewing the tariff for cable TV service in Cas (conditional access system) notified areas.

The areas under review are: tariff for basic service tier, retail price for a pay channel, tariff options for suplly of set-top boxes (STBs) and revenue share arrangement between service providers.

Trai had earlier fixed the current cap on maximum retail price of pay channels at Rs 5.35 (excluding taxes). Two rental schemes on STBs were also mandated by the sector regulator for cable TV operators to offer to their subscribers - Rs 34 a month (on a security deposit of Rs 200) and Rs 22 (on a deposit of Rs 750).

The review is significant as broadcasters have complained that the price freeze on their pay channels is too low for them to recover their high-cost programming investments due to stiff competition in the sector.

The freeing of prices will also help the multi-system operators to up their revenues, industry observers said.

Trai has asked comments from the stakeholders on whether the use of STBs should be mandated on Cas notified areas for viewing both free-to-air (FTA) and pay channels.

Currently, cable TV subscribers do not have to use a STB if they only want the FTA channels.

Trai has also sought the views of stakeholders on whether there should be only two broad tariff regulatory frameworks, one for analogue non-addressable (non-Cas) and another for digital addressable systems, and whether such a framework should be the same for wholesale and retail.
In a consultation paper released today on ‘Tariff for Cable TV services in Cas notified Areas‘, Trai has also asked what method should be used to regulate the tariff ceilings for basic service tier in Cas notified areas.

Trai has asked the stakeholders to submit their views by 5 May. Counter comments, if any, to the comments received may be sent to Trai by 12 May. 
Trai also wants to know which method should be used to regulate the retail tariff for pay channels in Cas notified areas: providing periodic inflation linked adjustment in the present ceiling of Rs 5.35 (excluding taxes) per pay channel per subscriber per month, single or different ceilings across all genres, or forbearance.

Should a relation between a-la-carte and bouquet price be prescribed to prevent perverse pricing, Trai asks, wanting to know whether it should be different for broadcaster and MSO.

It has also sought views on how the retail tariff for advertisement free channels should be regulated in Cas notified areas and whether it should be different from other pay channels.

Trai asks how the retail tariff should be regulated in Cas notified areas for niche channels which require specialised STBs.

Should the tariff for supply of STB be regulated, left to market forces, or should the present system continue, asks Trai.

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