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Broadcasters, DPOs misused new tariff order to throttle market discovery of channel prices: TRAI

TRAI has issued a tariff-related consultation paper

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MUMBAI: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday issued a consultation paper on tariff related issues for Broadcasting and Cable services.

The paper primarily discusses issues related to discounts given in the formation of the bouquets, ceiling price of channels for inclusion in bouquet, need for formation of bouquet by broadcasters and DPOs, variable NCF and discounts on long term plan.

TRAI believes that the new regulatory framework has brought the transparency in TV channel pricing, harmonised business processes in the sector and reduced disputes among stakeholders. However, adequate choice to select TV channels has not been given to the consumers.

“In all fairness, a lot was expected from broadcasters and DPOs to use flexibility given under new regulatory framework to address the concerns and aspirations of the consumers. However, given flexibility was misused to throttle market discovery of TV channel prices by giving huge discounts on the bouquets. It has been observed from the tariff declared by broadcasters under new regulatory framework that they are offering bouquets at a discount of up to 70 per cent of the sum of a-la-carte rates of pay channels constituting those bouquets,” reads TRAI’s latest notification.

“It indicates that in absence of any restriction on the discount on the offering of bouquets, broadcasters are making prices of a-la-carte channels illusory thereby impacting the a-la-carte choice of channels by consumers. Further, no restriction on number of channels has created another problem wherein broadcasters and DPOs are offering too many bouquets,” the note further states.

TRAI has observed that too many bouquets are formed by the broadcasters/DPOs and many of them contain very similar set of channels, with very few changes. This, according to the sector regulator, is not only creating confusion among consumers but also becoming a hurdle in choosing the channels.

With too many bouquets of broadcasters and DPOs, consumers get confused and as a result are forced to adopt some suggested packs of TV channels, killing the freedom given to consumers to choose desired TV channels, feels the sector regulator .

TRAI had extensive interactions with  stakeholders including consumers and consumer organizations, at various forums, wherein stakeholders have also raised certain issues such as variable NCF for different regions, NCF for Multi TV home, discount on long term plan, DD channels as part of one hundred channels etc.

 In order to deliberate upon above issues that have come post implementation of the new regime, the latest consultation paper has been floated seeking stakeholders' views.

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