Regulators

Respite for Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV, Discovery as TRAI assures no action till 10 Jan

Tata Sky has not published its RIO for now

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MUMBAI: Direct to home (DTH) operators  Tata Sky, Bharti Telemedia-owned Airtel Digital TV and Discovery Communication India were handed a breather on Wednesday after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) assured the Delhi High Court that it will not take any action against the trio until January 10, which is when the matter is scheduled to be heard next.

Tata Sky is unlikely to upload its RIO for now unlike Discovery, which has already published the same on its website.

Irrespective of the respite, the regulator’s counsel argued that the DTH operators must implement the TRAI order and regulations.

A source familiar with the matter added that Discovery has complied with TRAI’s tariff order and regulations under protest.

In 2017, Bharti Telemedia, Tata Sky and Discovery Communication India had filed petitions against TRAI, challenging its tariff order and the interconnect regulations.

Unlike the position adopted by Star India wherein it questioned the regulatory powers of TRAI, the matter in the Delhi HC questions on the regulator’s power to wipe out deals that operators enter into to fix commissions and rates for customers.

While the fate of the two DTH operators hangs in the balance in this matter, all other distribution platform operators (DPOs) continue to be bound by the tariff order.

TRAI on Tuesday cautioned stakeholders against spreading  “concocted and fabricated facts” against its new tariff directive while releasing a list of TV channels along with their respective maximum retail prices as per information received from broadcasters.

The TRAI statement insisted that the new tariff regime will bring about more transparency in the eco-system by “separating the network capacity fee and pay channel price” and added any “malpractice” from service providers will compel the regulator to intervene.

Pointing out that a section of the broadcasting and cable industry was creating confusion by insinuating the new tariff regime will increase the monthly cost of consumers for watching television by making inaccurate comparisons, TRAI said comparisons were “skewed” and far from the “market discovered” prices of TV channels.

Though the Pune Cable Operators Association a few days back said it’d move the Bombay High Court against TRAI’s new tariff regime as it could hurt LCOs’ earnings as also consumers, the regulator allayed such fears saying comparisons were not based on “reasoned analysis” and the standard interconnect agreements protected the revenue model of LCOs.

The regulator also released the maximum retail price of 332 pay channels offered by broadcasters to subscribers.

As per the  MRP list released by TRAI, NHK World Premium’s HD version is the costliest TV channel in the group at a stated price of Rs 1,800.

Though most TV channels are running against time to meet the year-end deadline to disclose MRPs and also conclude signing of agreements with distributing platforms, the issue of tariff is unlikely to settle down soon as TRAI itself has filed a petition in the Supreme Court to get clarifications on the issue of 15 per cent cap on discounts on channel pricing. 

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