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TRAI tariff & quality of services regulations

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NEW DELHI: The maximum retail price of a general entertainment television channel under the digital addressable system cannot exceed Rs 12 and that of a sports channel cannot go above Rs 19, according to the draft of the DAS tariff order issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

The maximum prices of other genres are: movies – Rs 10, infotainment – Rs nine, kids – Rs seven, news and current affairs – Rs five, and devotional – Rs three.

Even as the TRAI permitted broadcasters to offer bouquets if they wish to, it has said that the total price of the bouquet will not exceed 85 per cent of the total individual price of each of the channels in such a bouquet.

Furthermore, as consumers are often unsure of the fact that free to air channels are not be charged, the Authority has decided that bouquets of pay channels and FTA channels have to be separate -- there can be no bundling of pay and FTA channels both, at the broadcaster as well as at the distributor of television channels level, as it will help to reduce forced bundling of packages with FTA channels in view of fixed fee/CPS deals being executed by the broadcasters. The Tariff order states that broadcasters will have to qualify a channel as a pay TV or a free channel.

All stakeholders have been asked to respond to the tariff order draft by 24 October, after which TRAI will form its final opinion and issue the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order 2016.

The maximum retail price of a pay channel transmitted in SD format in a given genre shall not exceed the rate specified for such genre.  

The maximum retail price of a pay channel transmitted in HD format shall not be more than three times the maximum retail price of corresponding channel transmitted in SD format, But if the corresponding SD channel of a HD channel is not available, the maximum retail price of such HD channel shall not exceed three times the rate specified for corresponding genre.

The ceiling on maximum retail price shall apply to all the existing pay channels as well as to new pay channels that are launched or converted from free to air channel to pay channel after the commencement of this tariff order.

In the new framework, the number of genres has been reduced to 7 from existing 11. Some of the existing genres have been grouped together to form a new genre, while some genres have been retained.

In case a genre has been retained as it is, the maximum retail price of a channel to the customer in that genre will be 1.20 times the existing price cap for that genre for addressable systems. In case, multiple genres have been clubbed to form a new genre, maximum retail price of a channel in that genre to the customer will be 1.20 times the existing price cap of that genre which has the highest price cap for addressable systems.

Meanwhile, TRAI also issued a draft of the Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection (Digital Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2016 and wanted stakeholders to react to these by 25 October 2016.

The broadcaster will have to ensure that the maximum retail price of such bouquet of pay channels in a relevant geographical area shall be uniform for all distribution platforms in that area; that it should not contain any free to air channel or HD or SD variants of the same channels or any premium channels.

The Q of S Regulations have addressed almost every aspect of the cable TV ecosystem going forward fixing the responsibility of the broadcaster, the cable TV platform, the distributor and consumer. It covers everything from subscriber management systems to disconnection and reconnection of services to a la carte pricing to package pricing to the tariffs that can be charged by cable TV operators, MSOs, and broadcasters to billing to creating consumer awareness about DAS. 

Referring to the discussions it held with stakeholders, TRAI says the Authority had prescribed a genre-ceiling subject to inflation linked hikes. All the channels have to prescribe channel rate in accordance with the applicable genre-ceilings in non-addressable and addressable systems.

Some broadcasters had submitted that they agree with genre-wise pricing, maximum and minimum defined for channel pricing with regular revision of caps from time to time.

Broadcasters have also submitted that the price cap should be based on channel popularity, number of channels in a particular genre and actual viewership based on distributor of television channels disclosures. They have further opined that a maximum of 33% discount on wholesale price across all genres must be allowed with the frequency to revisit genre ceilings be 1 to 2 years.

A majority of the distributors of television channels have submitted that the price caps may be determined by TRAI using the existing commercial agreements data filed with TRAI.

According to them, one such method to arrive the genre-wise price caps can be a simple average of current RIO rates of channels in a genre. Most of the distributors of television channels have further submitted that there exists and inverse relation between price of a channel and popularity-viewership. As a-la-carte rates increase, penetration of the channel decreases thereby decreasing ad-revenue. They are of the opinion that a maximum of 40-50% discounts should be allowed on the RIO rates for fair and non-discriminatory pricing of channels to all the distributors of television channels. They further suggested that the frequency to revisit genre ceilings may be 1- 5 years.

The existing framework for genre ceiling is working well. Therefore in order to have continuity, the Authority is of the view that existing genre ceiling should continue. However, in the new framework, broadcasters will provide distribution fee of 20% on the MRP to distributors of television channels. Accordingly, the Authority has proposed a new genre-ceiling for MRP to customers with adequate scope to cater for additional business margins at 20% of the existing genre ceilings for addressable systems. It is expected that the prices will be regulated by the market forces based on the demand of channels or TRP.

Also Read:  TRAI releases draft tariff & consumer DAS regulations

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