Trai floats paper on pricing of new channels

NEW DELHI: Just ahead of annual revision of cable TV rates, broadcast regulator has floated a discussion paper on whether all new TV channels should be made available as separate individual products only or not.

"This short consultation paper is in response to a proposal received from MSO Alliance, an alliance representing major MSOs,for amendment to the The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Second) Tariff Order 2004 dated 1.10.2004," the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said today in a statement.

The proposal is for deletion of the words "or as part of new separate bouquet" from the tariff order, which would, in effect, mean that all new channels can only be provided as separate individual channels.

The existing provisions, inter alia, provide that new pay channels/converted FTA-to-pay channels are to be offered on a "stand alone" basis and not be part of a bouquet existing as on 26 December, 2003.

The stand alone channels could be offered either individually or as part of a separate new bouquet at the option of a broadcaster. The Tariff Order also provided that rates of new pay channels or FTA channels that converted to pay channels must be the same as similar channels that existed in December 2003.

According to the regulator, the proposals for amendment to the Tariff Order were examined in the context of the detailed recommendations on broadcasting and distribution of TV channels, issued on 1 October 2004, which threw up a number of related issues.

Keeping these issues in mind, Trai has sought more inputs on the following major issues:

#Whether all new channels be provided as separate individual channels?

#Whether the prices charged by broadcasters to MSOs for channels /bouquets launched after 26 December 2003 be frozen at the levels at which they were introduced with an annual increase in inflation?

#Whether there is a need to provide for benchmarks in the Tariff Order for determining similarity in rates of similar channels and what can be the methods of arriving at these benchmarks?

# What should be the criterion for determining similarity of channels?

#What should be the approach in case an existing pay channel changes from one distributor to another and what would be the changes that may be required in the Tariff Order?

#Whether the prices charged by broadcasters to the MSOs should be released for public information by Trai as and when there are changes?

#Whether Trai should move towards pricing of individual channels so that consumers through the cable operators exercise wider choice regarding channels in a non-CAS environment?

The gist of the comments received will be posted on the Trai's website. The full text of the consultation paper too is available on the website.

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