The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), after an extensive consultative process, notified the amended Regulations and Tariff Order on November 22, 2022. As a result, the Telecom Regulatory Authority's (TRAI) new tariff order (NTO 3.0) on the pricing of TV channels came into effect on February 1, 2023.
Indian Broadcasting & Digital Foundation (IBDF) says that the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF), in its latest announcement, has made some inaccurate remarks regarding the new price regime, which came into force on February 1, 2023.
IBDF said AIDCF and its members actively engaged in the consultative process and were aware of the timelines mandated by TRAI. In addition, they were fully aware of the fact that the law requires TV channels to be provisioned only through a signed interconnect agreement.
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More than 90% of DPOs have Signed the Revised Interconnect Agreement
Currently, all broadcasters, DTH providers, and most cable operators, including select members of AIDCF, have successfully implemented the revised regulatory framework. This has resulted in over 90% of Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) signing the updated interconnect agreement offered by broadcasters, thus affirming their commitment to legal compliance and ensuring uninterrupted service for most subscribers.
Subscriber Flexibility Under New Regime
The revised pricing regime offers subscribers the option to choose between individual channels or bundled channel packages, providing greater flexibility. Moreover, the maximum monthly subscription fee for channels included in a bouquet is Rs 19, which is considerably lower than the cost of essentials in the country.
Invoking Consumer Sentiment
The attempt of the AIDCF to invoke consumer sentiment on the price increase is belied by their attempt to increase that portion of the consumer bill that goes only to the AIDCF members, i.e. Network Capacity Fees (NCF).
Network Capacity Fees (NCF)
In 2017, TRAI introduced a new charge called the Network Capacity Fees (NCF), which Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) levy on subscribers for providing access to TV services. Although DPOs collect subscription fees in advance from consumers, they often fail to pass on the appropriate share to broadcasters in a timely fashion. Therefore, the price hike during implementation is primarily due to DPOs' demand for an increase in the NCF and not a result of an increase in channel prices.
"While no pay TV channel is provided against the said charge, this cost is ultimately borne by subscribers, making TV services more expensive for them. Thus, the AIDCF's allegation that broadcasters are responsible for driving up TV channel prices and that channel disruptions have impacted 45 million households is entirely baseless. Despite not being granted any interim relief by multiple High Courts, AIDCF is attempting to invoke public sympathy by spreading false narrative," says IBDF.
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Additional 48 Hours of Time Provided
Although broadcasters are not legally obligated to provide any further opportunity to AIDCF members, they generously offered an additional 48 hours to sign the revised interconnect agreement in the interest of subscribers, enabling them to continue receiving TV signals without interruption. While some operators have signed the agreement, AIDCF members have deliberately chosen to ignore it and refused to sign the revised interconnect offer. Consequently, broadcasters had no legal alternative but to disconnect TV services from the non-compliant DPOs to enforce the regulatory framework.
Non-compliant DPOs constitute a Minority
Moreover, AIDCF is not only defying the law but also holding less than 25 million subscribers hostage for its own commercial interests while disseminating misleading information. The press release issued by AIDCF appears to be an attempt to influence the public in a matter that is currently before the court. These non-compliant DPOs constitute a minority compared to those who have already signed the revised agreement, and their non-compliance is depriving consumers of access to their favourite channels. Therefore, the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) urges affected viewers to consider subscribing to their preferred channels through other operators.
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AIDCF members are only causing inconvenience to Consumers
"Consumers are the primary focus of any broadcaster's strategy, and AIDCF members are simply causing them inconvenience by making baseless claims and depriving them of their favourite shows for selfish reasons. Broadcasters are continually introducing new channels with captivating content, further promoting growth in the industry, generating employment opportunities, and providing consumers with a diverse range of entertainment options," says the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation in its release.