Television

Cable fraternity hits out at TRAI

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NEW DELHI: And so the blame game goes on. First it was the government that was in the line of fire of the broadcast and cable industry stakeholders for favouring one segment or the other. Now, the regulator is coming under the same sort of criticism.

 

Miffed with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the cable fraternity today hit out at the new industry sheriff as a clutch of cable operators from different parts of the country today expressed their 'lack of faith' in the regulator.



The bone of contention is not only TRAIs reluctance to regulate prices of pay channels, but also introduce a unified license scheme under which any company, including those operating in the field of telecom, can offer cable services.



"The attitude of TRAI is puzzling and is biased towards broadcasters. It cannot regulate the prices of (pay) channels, but is willing to put caps on cable rates," Gujarat Cable Operators Association, vice-president, Nehal Parmir told indiantelevision.com today during an interaction with the media in the Capital.



According to Parmir, if this line of thinking is carried forward by TRAI, then it would be detrimental to the over Rs 150 billion cable industry as non-cable companies would muscle their way in to oust smaller cable ventures.



Usual suspects like COFI's (Cable Operators Federation of India) Roop Sharma and National Cable & Telecom Association's (NCTA) Vikki Chowdhry are of the opinion that the appointment of the regulator too, it seems, may not change the scenario for the better.



Sharma went to the extent of saying that TRAIs proposal to bring in a unified licensing scheme was aimed at favouring a particular corporate house that is very active in the field of telecom as it, through its telecom customers, wants to grab the whole world.



As if on cue, at todays press meet, the cable operators expressed concern over the possible entry of telecom companies like Reliance, Bharti and BSNL in the cable television distribution business in the "guise of convergence."



Various cable operators associations from all parts of India, including Mumbai, Kolkata, Assam, Chennai, Bangalore, Gujarat, Hyderabad, Pondicherry and Punjab had yesterday apprised TRAI of their various problems during a meeting. And today they told the media of their encounter with TRAI.



Harping on same lines, the cable operators today said that foremost on their agenda was the vertical monopoly by broadcasters through their supported MSOs, which has resulted in the present chaotic situation in the cable TV industry.



A cable operator from Punjab said that TRAI has no hold over arbitrary increase in the rates by broadcasters and their continuous efforts to force increased connectivity on the cable operators.



Surprisingly, a representative from Chennai, where CAS has already implemented, informed the gathering that contrary to popular belief addressability was successful in the city



Whether anybody is listening or not, the cable operators have come up with a long list of suggestions for TRAI too. These include licensing of channels like any other service provider, having uniform channel prices all over the country, having the same pricing for channels for cable, DTH and other related mode of delivery and of course, cross service restrictions.



The big question: is TRAI willing to take a factionalism-ridden cable industry seriously?

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