Broadcasters seek minimum regulation in pricing, packaging of TV channels

Trai issued a consultation paper in January inviting feedback from stakeholders on the existing and proposed tariff arrangements


New Delhi: Television broadcasters pushed for minimum regulatory intervention in fixing prices and packaging of TV channels offered to subscribers at an open house organized by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in New Delhi on Friday. Multi-system operators, local cable operators and consumers also participated in the discussion.

Trai issued a consultation paper in January inviting comments and counter-comments from all the stakeholders on the existing tariff arrangements and proposed tariff models in the broadcast industry.

“The broadcasters should have the right to negotiate the price with the distribution platform operators (DPO) because the content for every channel is different. If we pay billions of dollars for the broadcasting rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL), then we should have some liberty in deciding the price to recover our cost,” said Gururaja Rao, senior director, legal, at MSM Media Distribution, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Networks India Pvt. Ltd.

DPOs obtain the TV channels from the broadcasters and offer these to the consumers either directly—direct-to-home (DTH) and Internet protocol television (IPTV)—or through cable operators.

The representatives of the DPO sector emphasized that the current tariff arrangements are not transparent. Broadcasters favour the big companies in the distribution business and provide them with heavy discounts which could be as high as 90% of the actual price, they said.

“The DPOs have borne the expense of digitisation of the broadcasting industry and they need to be compensated. We carry content at a cost which we should be able to decide,” said V. Raj Kumar, group general counsel at Den Networks, a New Delhi-based cable TV distribution company.

Moreover, the existing structure does not give the subscribers adequate choice in broadcast TV services. The standard-definition and high-definition TV channels, which offer the same content, are placed in the same bouquet of TV channels and the subscribers are forced to pay high prices for them.

“The prices of the channels are neither known to the cable operators, nor to the subscribers. There is no transparency in the entire framework. Broadcasters are biased towards the big distribution houses and the local cable operators and the DPOs suffer due to high prices charged by the broadcasters,” said Roop Sharma, president, Cable Operators Federation of India.

According to a Trai official, the regulator will soon come up with recommendations that will ensure that the tariff structure is simplified and rationalized and the consumers are protected against price hikes.

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