TRAI issues separate tariff for commercial subscribers under DAS & non-DAS areas

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today issued separate tariff orders for commercial subscribers under digital addressable systems (DAS) and non-DAS areas.

TRAI described a “commercial subscriber” as one “who causes the signals of TV channels to be heard or seen by any person for a specific sum of money to be paid by such person.” 

The definition is contained in two Tariff Amendment Orders (TAO) relating to TV services for commercial subscribers, one applicable for TV services being provided through analogue cable TV systems (Non-CAS areas) and the other one applicable for TV services being provided through Digital Addressable cable TV systems were notified today.

The amendments are to the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Second) tariff (Twelfth Amendment) order & the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Fourth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff (Fourth Amendment) order.

For definition of ordinary subscriber, the notification simply says anyone who is not a commercial subscriber under its definition is an ordinary subscriber. 

Total forbearance has been prescribed both at the wholesale and retail level with respect to tariffs for commercial subscribers and broadcasters have the option to enter into tripartite agreements with the Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) and the commercial subscribers, if so desired.

The order says that a broadcaster will offer all its pay channels, for commercial subscribers on a-la-carte basis to distributors of TV channels, and may specify separate a-la-carte rate for each pay channel.

This is provided the broadcaster may also offer all its pay channels as part of bouquet consisting of pay channels or both pay and free to air (FTA) channels and specify the rate for each such bouquet of channels offered by it; and a broadcaster may enter into a tripartite agreement with the distributors of TV channels and the commercial subscribers for supply of signals of TV channels to the commercial subscribers.

Broadcasters have been mandated to offer their channels or bouquet of channels for commercial subscribers on non-discriminatory terms and conditions. 

Broadcasters have also been mandated to file their tripartite agreements, if such agreement is done with commercial subscribers, with TRAI within 30 days of entering into such agreement.

TV signals to commercial subscribers have to be provided by DPOs only in accordance with policy guidelines for up-linking and down-linking of television channels.

Following directions by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Arbitration Tribunal (TDSAT) on 9 March that there was need for a fresh look at tariff orders, TRAI had issued a new paper on "Tariff issues related to Commercial Subscribers." Stakeholders had been asked to give their comments by 31 July and counter-comments by 7 August and had then held an Open House on 18 August.

The case in TDSAT had been filed by Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and others last year. The tariff orders challenged by IBF were issued on 16 July last year following the Supreme Court's order of 16 April, 2014.

TRAI said in a press release that it “expected that with the coming into force of these changes in the regulatory framework for commercial subscribers, distribution of TV services to commercial subscribers would be streamlined and would be available to them at competitive rates. It is also envisaged that it would balance the interests of all the stakeholders in the value chain and bring in complete transparency in the business transactions.”

In the consultation paper, TRAI had asked commercial subscribers whether there is need to define and differentiate between domestic and commercial subscribers for provision of TV signals and the basis for such classification. TRAI wanted to know how it can be ensured that TV signal feed is not misused for commercial purposes wherein the signal has been provided for non-commercial purpose.

It had also asked if there is a need to have a different tariff framework for commercial subscribers (both at wholesale and retail levels) and what should be the suggested tariff framework for commercial subscribers (both at wholesale and retail levels).

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