Viewers will not find their television bills rising as recent reports seem to suggest, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has said less than a week after the new tariff regime for television channels has come into effect.
According to the new tariff regime, consumers can choose the channels that they want to watch and need to pay only for them at the maximum retail prices (MRPs) set by the respective broadcasters.
“The overarching objective of this regulation is choice, not price. The framework focuses on transparency and non-discrimination in the sector," said Trai chairman R.S. Sharma.
The framework could increase the monthly bill of most subscribers of television channels, according to a recent report by global analytical company Crisil. Assuming that subscribers opt for the top 10 rated channels by viewership in addition to the free-to-air (FTA) ones, monthly bills could go up by 20-25%, according to the analysis.
Sharma said the analysis is not based on correct inputs and assumptions as the 10 channel list includes those in languages such as Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Bengali, which a single individual or household is unlikely to watch. TV channel choices should be based on language, culture, and region, and not ratings by broadcast monitoring agency BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council), Sharma said.
Such reports create confusion in the minds of people, he said.
“This is not typical customer behaviour. Plus some of these channels duplicate the same content over time so why would the consumer subscribe to both?" Sharma asked.
Besides, preliminary data from a couple of distribution platforms shows that the monthly bills have gone down, Sharma said. In Mumbai, for example, for subscribers of one operator, the average payment has gone down from ₹325 to ₹271, and in Delhi from ₹303 to ₹265, he said.
“Messages that conclude that consumer prices will go up should not happen without proof. Of course if someone decides to take 800 channels, their bill will go up to ₹5,000. But that’s not the idea. For a consumer who decides to exercise his right to choose specific channels, we expect prices to go down," Sharma said.
BARC data estimates that 50% of consumers watch or browse through 50 channels or less, 60% of consumers go through 20 or less.
The regulator expects migration to new plans to be smooth though there are logistical issues at the moment. He said that customers who have pre-paid plans with direct-to-home operators can either switch plans immediately or when the current plan expires.
The regulator said that service providers pushing specific packages and not allowing consumers a choice within the first 100 channels is a violation of the rules.
“This is the beginning of a new framework. Our goal is to ensure empowerment of the consumer, non-discrimination in the sector, and investment in content. Customers should have a great time if we just wait for a little while," Sharma said.