Trai New DTH Rules: Why Broadcasters Are Angry at the Telecom Regulator

Trai has brought new DTH rules in the industry governing the prices of the channels for broadcasters, and the broadcasters are not liking it

Highlights
  • The broadcasters filed petition in the Bombay HC to seek interim relief
  • Trai's new DTH rules come into effect on March 1
  • These new rules place cap on discount of channel packs among regulating other things

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) launched new DTH rules right on the first day of the year. While 2019 was all about shifting to the new Trai tariff regime, it seems that Trai is wanting to make 2020 all about changing the Trai tariff regime. In the second half of last year, Trai admitted that it might have overlooked some of the things while bringing the National Tariff Order (NTO) into effect. To patch things up, Trai worked on some of the measures and then introduced the amendments to the Trai tariff regime. But, looking at the new changes which Trai has made, the broadcasters and the TV channels owners are definitely not feeling good. The broadcasters in the Indian broadcasting industry have all come together and raised their voices against the new rules which have been brought for all. On the surface, these rules look good for the consumers and might save them some money, but for the broadcasters, it might be opposite.

Discount Capped on Channel Packs

The major issue with the new Trai DTH rules is the discount cap and the disparity with which Trai has dealt with DPOs (Distribution Platform Operators), DTH companies and the broadcasters. For the DTH companies, there has been a limit set on Rs 160 NCF, which is the maximum that can be charged from the consumer, no matter how many channels they watch or subscribe to. On the other hand, for the broadcasters, there is no discounting allowed on the channel packs. Further, the pricing of the channel, which can be included in a channel pack has been brought down to Rs 12 per month. Meaning that if a channel is to be included in a pack, then it will have to be priced Rs 12 or lower.

To recall, the first blow came to the broadcasters when Trai tariff regime came into play. For the Pay-TV broadcasters, it was the first hit as the subscribers gravitated more towards free channels and these channels lost advertising revenue and subscription revenue both. Now with this further rule change, although the a-la-carte channels have been given a priority, alienating these channels from the packs is going to mean a further slump in subscription for the channels. This could mean a further loss of revenue for the broadcasters, and this is what the companies are worried about.

Trai Places Strict Rules on Making Channel Packs

Now Trai has also set a cap on the carriage fees which is charged by the DPO for carrying the channels, and this has been set at Rs 4 lakh, but even this is a little relief for the broadcasters. Further, there is the stringent rules regarding the making of channel packs like the one-third pricing rule for the channel inside a bouquet, or the fact that the individual channel cannot be priced more than one and a half times of its price in the bouquet.

Overall, it can be said that the new Trai DTH rules are good for the consumers as they will reduce the Multi TV pricing and the NCF charges too in the case of too many channels. But, for the broadcasters, these rules hurt the companies and bring in too stringent regulations. The severity of the issue is so much that the broadcasters guild, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and big broadcasters like Star India have filed a petition in the Bombay HC.

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Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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