Regulators

Stakeholders undivided on constitution of commercial subscriber

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NEW DELHI: What constitutes commercial or non-commercial subscribers for broadcasting and cable TV services?

This question remained largely unresolved in an open house discussion on tariff issues related to broadcasting and cable television services for commercial subscribers held later today.

Broadcasters by and large were in agreement that anyone other than a domestic subscriber is a commercial subscriber.

There was also division on who is responsible for the subscriber. While broadcasters feel they should know about the subscribers, the multi-service operators and cable operators said they are generally responsible for dealing with the subscriber and the broadcaster should not interfere.

The Open House Discussion was called by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as it has to submit a proper tariff chart to the Supreme Court by 16 July.

The meet was attended by senior officials of TRAI, the broadcasting fraternity including the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, and other stakeholders, apart from consumer organisations.

The whole controversy rose after an order of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Arbitration Tribunal of 28 May 2010 was challenged in the Supreme Court, which had on 16 April this year said: “…However, we direct that for a period of three months, the impugned tariff, which is in force as on today, shall continue. Within the said period, TRAI shall look into the matter de novo, as directed in the impugned judgment, and shall re–determine the tariff after hearing the contentions of all the stake holders….”

 TRAI had issued a consultation paper in this connection, and also invited comments from stakeholders by June-end. Though several stakeholders have already responded in writing, they were today given a final opportunity to send in their written comments by 8 July.

 On behalf of TRAI, the meet was attended by member R K Arnold, Dr Vijayalakshmy K Gupta, principal advisor N Parameswaran and secretary Sudhir Gupta. Others among the approximately 100 stakeholders who attended were IBF’s Sailesh Shah, Sony’s Naresh Chahal, Star’s Pulak Bagchi, a representative of Siticable and Cable Operators Federation of India’s Roop Sharma.

Cable operator and journalist K K Sharma said most cable operators charged the same fee from commercial or non-commercial subscribers.

A representative of the hotel industry said that it did not differentiate between a commercial or non-commercial subscriber. 

Broadcasters representatives insisted that a lot of the investment went into production of content and so advertising was important, but some stakeholders said that encrypted channels should not be allowed to take commercials.

Among the questions that the TRAI had asked in the consultation paper was whether stakeholders agreed with the definitions of ‘commercial establishment, ‘shop’ and ‘commercial subscriber’ given by TRAI; whether there was a need to further categorise commercial subscribers; tariff for commercial subscribers and whether it should be the same as for ordinary subscribers.

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