Broadcasters follow Trai diktat, declare channel rates at Rs 5

MUMBAI: Under protest but within the deadline stipulated by the sector regulator, pay broadcasters today fell in line on the price fixed for the areas notified under conditional access system (CAS). As pre the directive issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), pay broadcasters have declared the a la carte rates of their channels at Rs 5 (excluding taxes).

The regulator had set a common price on all pay channels directing that under the conditional access system (CAS) regime they will cost Rs 5/- per channel per subscriber per month (excluding taxes). 

Star India has declared the prices of its channels as well as the channels the company distributes. The company has specified that the prices are being filed under protest and without prejudice to Star India Private Ltd's rights and contentions raised in petitions filed by Star and / or any other parties on the issues.

Last month, Star had filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court challenging the basis of Trai's announcement on pricing for CAS. The matter will come up for the next hearing on 15 November.

Set Discovery Pvt Ltd and ESPN Software Pvt Ltd have also respectively acknowledged the ceiling price. The two recently tendered an appeal against the tariff order at the tribunal forum TDSAT, where the final arguments are likely to be heard on 13 November.

Set Discovery pointed out that the pricing shall be effective from 31 December 2006 and is subject to implementation of CAS in the notified areas pursuant to I&B's notification dated 31 July 2006.

Raj TV Network, Sun TV, Udaya TV, Gemini TV limited, Ushodaya Enterprises Limited (Television Division) and B4U Television Network Pvt Ltd have also affirmed to the tariff order set by the regulator. Sun TV, Udaya TV and Gemini TV, however, clarified that the ceiling prices are not effective in Chennai, the CAS market and be accessible as free-to-air channels.

The British Broadcasting Corporation, which turned its BBC World into a pay channel earlier this year, has also affirmed to the price like the other broadcasters. Zee Turner Ltd has also agreed to the price and declaring the charges of all the channels that the platform distributes.

The regulator does indicate that in respect of those broadcasters who are yet to confirm their rates, a communication is being sent to them to report compliance in respect of the maximum retail price fixed by them for their pay channels in CAS areas.

Trai deems that the declaration of tariff for pay channels in CAS areas is an important milestone in the implementation of CAS, which will also protect the interests of consumers.

The regulator is also pursuing the completion of interconnect agreements among the service providers as envisaged in the Interconnection Regulation order to ensure a smooth roll out of CAS.

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