Regulators

TRAI plea in SC for raising pay channel tariff cap

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MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has petitioned the Supreme Court to allow it to raise the ceiling on tariff for pay channels distributed in non-addressable areas.

The tariff for pay channels in areas where cable TV is distributed through analogue technology has remained capped at the pre-2009 rates, following a direction by the Supreme Court in March 2009 for maintenance of status quo.

TRAI says there is a need for reviewing the ceiling to adjust the tariff for pay channels in non-addressable areas for inflation.

The court is likely to hear the TRAI plea towards the end of March.

TRAI in its appeal to the SC says, ?The present tariff was based on the figures of 2009 and the appellant is of the view that an across the board adjustments be provided in respect of tariff to compensate for increased costs on account of inflation.?

The TRAI had amended the tariff order of 2007 by providing for a 7 per cent increase on account of inflation effective from the year 2009.

TRAI says, ?The authority since then has not been able to revise the tariff for non-addressable systems, even though more than five years have passed.?

Before 2009, the tariff orders were amended periodically, thereby providing for adjustments for inflation.  No such exercise has been undertaken after 2009.

The TRAI through its appeal has informed the Supreme Court that it had in its ?Recommendations on Issues relating to Broadcasters and Distribution of TV Channels? provided for a provision to periodically review the ceiling on tariff to make adjustments for inflation.

?According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, a substantial increase in the price has taken place and the ceiling thus needs to be reviewed immediately,? reads TRAI?s appeal to the SC, a copy of which is with Indiantelevision.com.

According to the current tariff ceiling, the subscriber for up to 20 pay channels and minimum 30 free to air (FTA) channels in A1 and A class cities has to pay not more than Rs 160, in B1 and B class cities not exceeding Rs 140 and in other areas not more than Rs 130.

Likewise for more than 20 and up to 30 pay channels and minimum 30 FTA channels, the subscriber in A1 and A class cities has to pay not more than Rs 200, in B1 and B class cities not exceeding Rs 170 and in other areas not more than Rs 160.

For viewing more than 30 and up to 45 pay channels, the subscriber as per the tariff has to pay not exceeding Rs 235 in A1 and A class cities, Rs 200 in B1 and B class cities and not exceeding Rs 185 in other cities.

Also for viewing more than 45 pay channels and minimum 30 FTA channels, subscribers, according to the current ceiling on tariff, has to pay not more than Rs 260 in A1 and A class cities, Rs 220 in B1 and B class cities and Rs 200 in other cities.

While the broadcasters would welcome over the appeal by TRAI, but cable operators feel the subscription charges for consumers in non-addressable areas will rise by as much as 36 per cent if the ceiling is approved.

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