DTH

Tariffs for CAS areas: Trai seeks industry feedback

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NEW DELHI: The broadcast regulator is at it again --- issuing another set of consultation paper on cable TV prices for CAS areas.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today floated a paper on amendments to the tariff order for CAS areas asking stakeholders whether the regulator should fix the maximum retail prices (MRPs) of TV channels, amongst other things.

The last date for the industry to give feedback is 5 July 2006, the day when the government is supposed to revert to the Delhi High Court on the status of CAS rollout in Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai.

Pointing out that the latest initiative is at he behest of the industry, Trai said, ?Several stakeholders (had) suggested fixation of ceilings for individual channels. Since this is at variance with the earlier decision of Trai, it was considered appropriate to undertake a fresh consultation on the specific issues of regulation of tariff in CAS areas.?

A Trai, official, however, denied that these consultation papers would any way affect a court case on CAS or that it would give the government some breathing space when it updates the judiciary on CAS? rollout plans.

?The issue of consultation papers and government?s stand on CAS are different matters,? the official stressed, refusing to expand any further.

On 10 March 2006, the Delhi High Court had directed that CAS be implemented in three cities within a month?s time after being petitioned by a group of MSOs.

Subsequently, the I&B ministry had held a series of meetings with industry stakeholders and consumer groups and had submitted to the court that for an effective rollout of CAS an additional 265 days were needed.

The court, after making clear its disapproval of such suggestions and penalizing the ministry Rs. 100,000 (RS 1 lakh) for delay, asked the government to come back with a final implementation plan by 5 July.

The regulator?s fresh consultation paper covers the following issues:

i) Should Trai fix the maximum retail price for each individual channel?

ii) If so, what should be the methodology and principles to be adopted for the same?

iii) Should Trai promote individual choice of channels by fixation of the maximum price as a percentage of the average price of a channel in a bouquet and, if so, what should be this percentage?

(iv) If the individual MRPs are fixed by Trai, along with a formula as indicated, should TRAI also regulate the maximum permissible discount for the bouquet of channels? If so what should be the discount and what are the principles on which this should be calculated?

(v) The choice of the precise option out of the several alternatives to regulate prices in a CAS environment.

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