Deadline Nears But TV Viewers Clueless On New Tariff Regime

Customers are still confused about the mode of selecting channels and the pricing as there’s no clarity from multi-service operators (MSOs) or local cable operators (LCOs).

According to the new rules, consumers get to select channels and pay for only what they want to view. TRAI has prescribed a basic fee of Rs 130 plus 18 percent GST, which is called network capacity fee (NCF), by paying which a consumer, can select 100 channels, including 26 mandatory Doordarshan channels. He/ she can get 25 more channels in this category by paying additional Rs 20. While these channels include both freeto-air (FTA) and pay channels, consumers will have to pay the MRP fixed by broadcasters over and above the NCF to view pay channels.

Apart from this, viewers can choose individual pay channels — a la carte or bouquet (multiple). TRAI has fixed a price range of Rs 1- Rs 19 as MRP for pay channels.

While LCOs are still lobbying for the extension of the deadline, most of them have not started preparing for the migration, because of which consumers are at sea about the new regime. “We have come across a few advertisements on channels about the new regime and the announcement of MRP. Except this, we have no information,” said Sridevi Raj, a homemaker from Basavanagudi.

A few LCOs, with support from their respective MSOs, have prepared local area-wise packages, each having about 100 channels, and are on a door-to-door campaign to get consumers’ consent. “It is only a temporary arrangement that we are putting in place through LCOs,” said GS Umesh, senior manager of In-Cablenet, an MSO. “As per the new rules, we need to activate each set-top box based on the consumer’s reference. As this will take a while, we are offering packages till the time we are fully prepared for the transition.” He said efforts were on to avoid blackout of channels on December 29.

According to the system envisaged by TRAI, broadcasters, MSOs and LCOs have to set up websites enabling consumers to select channels and make online payment. They also have to establish a call centre for grievance redressal. While TRAI officials said they were yet to come across such portals, cable operators said at present they were focusing on organizing a protest in New Delhi on December 26.

“Only a few LCOs may be offering the said packages. Most are just waiting and watching as they are seeking extension of the deadline,” said VS Patrick Raj, president, Karnataka Cable State Operators Association.

On the fears of an impending blackout of TV screens on December 29 in case consumers are not able to select channels by then, Raj said it wouldn’t be the case as they would get the 26 Doordarshan channels at least.

TRAI officials, meanwhile, said obtaining consumers’ consent for packages is allowed. “The essence of the new regime is to give consumers the right to choose. If the LCOs and consumers agree to a package, there is no issue. Consent can be obtained in any mode,” said Aravind Kumar, adviser, TRAI.― Newsrain

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