IBF discusses TRAI, cable price freeze

NEW DELHI: The Indian Broadcasters Forum (IBF) today held a preliminary discussions here ahead of its board meeting tomorrow and discussed various 

industry-related issues, including developments on the government-mandated regulatory body, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).


Pointing out that the IBF has prepared a draft paper for TRAI, as part of a consultation and views-exchanging process, Foundation sources indicated that the matter of freezing of cable prices as on 26 December by the regulator too came up for discussion.

Not saying directly that some broadcasters had floated a proposal on challenging the TRAI order on prices, the sources did admit that various options were talked about, but no final view has been taken yet as the president of the organisation (Prasar Bharati CEO K.S. Sarma) was not present at todays meeting. Sarma is scheduled to return to India after an official tour of the UK and the US early Tuesday.

IBF is an apex body of foreign and domestic broadcasting companies operating in India. In the past, members of the organisation have had different stand on contentious issues and there have been instances when during industry presentations, the president and others have publicly differed on matters like CAS.

However, an IBF member said that as an individual (broadcaster), people are free to take decisions whether a TRAI order should be legally challenged or a more friendly approach has to be adopted vis-?-vis the new regulator.

Technically, a TRAI order has to be first challenged in TDSAT, a tribunal set up for this purpose, before moving the courts.

The price freeze issue has thrown up a unique situation where one of the pay broadcasters, ESPN-Star Sports, does not get affected by the TRAI order, while others do. Since ESPN and Star Sports had increased its prices early December, on the cut-off day, its new price (varying between Rs. 32 and Rs. 37.90, depending on the deal agreed upon with the cable industry) would be technically taken as prevalent.

The draft paper prepared by IBF, which is likely to be submitted to TRAI after some more fine-tuning, dwells on various matters related to the industry, including the controversial and contentious issue of conditional access system (CAS).

One of the main concerns of IBF members is that though technically TRAI has not put a stop to the rollout of CAS in South Delhi, in deference to the Delhi high court that has said till 5 April the situation should be reviewed, the cable fraternity is half-heartedly pushing the boxes in Delhi.

If the MSOs and cable ops gets aggressive, things may become tricky. Since no agreements for CAS-enabled zone(s) has been signed by MSOs or cable operators with most broadcasters yet, the latter has to decide what would be their move if the cable fraternity gets aggressive on CAS front again.

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