TRAI new tariff order for broadcasters which has been pending implementation since 2017, will go into effect from December 29 this year. The implementation stalled due to legal challenge by Star India and Vijay Television on the jurisdiction of TRAI to issue such regulations or orders under the TRAI Act, 1996.
Tariff Order: Legal Challenge
In the first instance the Madras High Court delivered a split verdict, with one judge striking down a majority of the clauses in the Regulations and the Tariff Order under challenge, while the other judge upheld them as being in line with the TRAI Act. The case was referred to a third judge of the Madras High Court, who arrived at the same conclusion as the latter judge and held the Regulations and the Tariff Order to be valid. Aggrieved by the judgement of the Madras High Court, Star India preferred an appeal before the Supreme Court.
Related: Direct-to-Home (DTH) Services in India: Regulations
On October 30, 2018, Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Rohinton F. Nariman and Navin Sinha dismissed the appeal by Star India against the Madras High Court judgement upholding the same and thereby, paving way for implementation of the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017 and the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order, 2017.
The Court adjudicated the issue in the light of the objective of the TRAI Act, which was to harmonize the interests of service providers and consumers. It was held that no constricted meaning can be given to the provisions of this Act and that the power to regulate has to be construed widely to advance the objectives of the Act.
TRAI Tariff Order: All you need to know
- Every broadcaster shall offer all its television channels on a-la-carte basis to the distributors of television channels. The maximum retail price of a pay channel and a bouquet of pay channels are required to be uniform for all distribution channels. Distributors can neither refuse to offer any bundle nor slice and dice existing ones to form new ones.
- A broadcaster cannot charge different prices to different distributors even if the intended subscriber base of such distributors is different.
- The broadcasters cannot bundle free-to-air channels with pay channels and further any pay channel which is part of a bouquet cannot have a maximum retail price per month of above INR 19 (Indian Rupees nineteen).
- The broadcasters are permitted to offer promotional schemes on the maximum retail price per month of its a-la-carte pay channels. In such a case, the price offered under the promotional scheme shall be construed as the maximum retail price during the period of offer. However, such schemes can only be offered twice a year and for a period not exceeding ninety day in each instance.
- The cable or DTH provider has to offer a ‘base’ pack of 100 SD channels which cannot be priced at more than Rs 130 exclusive taxes.
- No separate charges, other than Network Capacity Fee (‘NCF”) to be paid by the subscribers for availing Free-to-Air channels.
- SD channels cannot be bundled with HD channels from the same broadcaster.
- Distributors to make bundles comprising only the free channels so that users, who do not wish to pay more than Rs 130 per month can opt for this. Further, distributors must offer these bundles in multiples of 25, with the maximum rate per 25 standard definition channels capped to a maximum of Rs 20.
- The rate of NCF that is charged by distributors to broadcasters shall not exceed maximum of 20 paise and 40 paise per subscriber per month for standard and high definition channels, respectively.
DTH Prices to go up under new Tariff Plans
Under the existing system DTH and cable operators entered into ‘fixed payment’ deals with broadcasters like Sun Network, Star India and Zee. Under such deals, a fixed amount was paid to the broadcaster and operators were then left alone to sell these channels at any rate to end consumers. Under the existing system, some operators were selling HD channels for as low as Rs 2.5 per month.
However, pursuant to new rules rates have to be transparent and uniform for all players. The response to the new regulations is that broadcasters like Star India, Zee and Sun Network have priced their popular HD channels between INR 15-19, with no discounts possible even for leading network operators.
TRAI New Tariff Order: Channels Priced at INR. 1 or less per month
|Channel||Pricing in INR|
|Star Sports First||1|
|Nat Geo Wild||1|
TRAI Tariff Order: Channels Priced at INR. 10 or higher per month
|Channel||Pricing in INR|
|Star Sports HD1||19|
|Star Sports HD2||19|
|Ten 1 HD||19|
|Ten 2 HD||19|
|Ten 3 HD||19|
In yet another related news, TRAI has released a consultation paper on the ‘Review of Television Audience Measurement and Ratings in India’ earlier this month. The paper is open for comments till January 2, 2019 and can be sent to Arvind Kumar, Advisor (B&CS), TRAI on his mail id: firstname.lastname@example.org.