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Some broadcasters exploiting a la carte pricing of TV channels: TRAI

Telecom regulator TRAI on Friday said some broadcasters are “exploiting” the freedom available for a la carte pricing of TV channels and warned that it will keep a “strict watch” on them and not shy away from taking action in the “larger interest” of consumers and the sector.

With an increase in TV channel subscription rates “impending”, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in a statement that the new tariff recently announced by “these leading broadcasters” reflects their intention to raise the prices of driver and popular channels.

Driver channels include general entertainment channels (GEC) and sports channels. The telecom regulator, however, did not name any broadcaster.

“Moreover, a sustained misleading campaign is being run to create an impression that the impending price increase is due to the NTO 2.0 (new tariff order and broadcast regulations).

“It is being publicised that any/every consumer who opts top GEC channels or sports channels will end-up paying an extra amount of Rs 100,” TRAI said.
This is “a fictional pretention” as the NTO 2.0 does not entail or prescribe any condition for increasing prices, it said.

“TRAI is aware that prices of some of the channels announced by the broadcasters are unsustainable as these are not demand driven or market determined prices and are against the interest of consumers,” the regulator said.

The price hike has been announced by broadcasters on their own “in the garb of” complying with the NTO 2.0, which is not true and rather an attempt to defeat the purpose of the NTO 2.0 that has “already benefited the consumers to a large extent”, it added.

TRAI said the purpose of the amendments to regulations for broadcasting for cable services sector was to ensure that no service provider corners undue gains and profiteers at the expense of consumers. “It is important to note that the channel pricing remained under prescribed ceiling for 15 years since 2004,” it said.

However, the new framework provided freedom to the broadcasters to fix prices of their television channels with certain conditions for inclusion into a bouquet, TRAI said.

Some broadcasters revised prices in compliance to the NTO2.0 thereby passing on “certain benefits” to the consumers, it said.

“Few other broadcasters are now exploiting freedom available for a la carte pricing of television channels. The new tariff announced by these leading broadcasters reflect their intention to increase prices of driver and popular channels,” it said. The regulator said that the new framework NTO 2.0 is “a comprehensive code” that balances interests of the service providers as-well-as the consumers. The framework should result into reducing prices for the consumers.

“Once implemented in true letter and spirit, it will bring in an era of transparent tariffs and usher in better channel content at most competitive prices,” it said.

“In addition, TRAI will also keep a strict watch over the developments and will not shy away from reviewing certain provisions including forbearance allowed to the broadcasters in the larger interest of consumers and the broadcasting sector,” it added.

The regulator said it is “conscious” of the time required for the implementation of necessary changes to be carried out to incorporate the considered choices of 150-160 million pay television homes.

“Therefore, TRAI may review the time frame provided for implementation to help consumers in making informed choices,” it added. The Hindu

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