Trai amends rules for a-la-carte channel pricing, cuts NCF for multi TV users by 40%

02 Jan 2020


The telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has issued amended regulations for broadcasters and channel distributors to address the issue of illusory discounts in formation of bouquets vis-a-vis sum of a-la-carte channels. 

Trai has prescribed twin conditions to ensure that the price of a-la-carte channels does not become illusionary. First, the sum of a-la-carte rates of pay channels (MRP) that are part of a bouquet shall in no case exceed one and a half times the rate of the bouquet of which such pay channels are a part. 
Second, the a-la-carte rates of each pay channel (MRP), forming part of a bouquet, shall in no case exceed three times the average rate of a pay channel of the bouquet of which such a pay channel is a part.
Additionally, the authority has decided that only channels with an MRP of Rs12 or less will be permitted to be part of the bouquet offered by broadcasters.
The other area of concern for consumers was regarding issues related to Network Capacity Fee (NCF). After examining various provisions Trai, accordingly mandated provision of 200 channels with maximum NCF of Rs130 excluding taxes per month.
In addition, it has also been decided that channels declared mandatory by the ministry of information and broadcasting will not be counted as part of channels in the NCF. DPOs have also been mandated that they will not charge more than Rs160 per month for providing all channels available on their platform.
Trai has also said that consumers have highlighted the issue of DPOs charging huge sums in the form of NCF for a multi-TV home. It has thus been decided that in case of a multi-TV home (where more than one TV connection in a home is in the name of one person) the maximum charge will be 40 per cent of the declared NCF, also for the second and additional TV connections.
The authority has also permitted DPOs to offer discounts on long-term subscriptions that are for six months or more.
Trai has also considered the concern of broadcasters about the heavy carriage fee being charged by DPOs. The authority has thus mandated that MSOs, HITS operators and IP TV service providers will not have a target market bigger than state or union territory as the case may be. In addition, a cap of Rs4 lakh per month has been prescribed on carriage fee payable by a broadcaster to a DPO in a month for carrying a channel in the country.
The authority has also considered giving more flexibility to DPOs to place TV channels on the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and has mandated that channel of a language in a genre will be kept together while placing channels on EPG. Such an EPG layout is to be mandatorily reported to the Trai and no change in this can be done without prior approval of the authority. This will address the concerns of the broadcasters to a great extent to protect them as it will not allow DPOs to frequently change the LCN of the television channel, in case they do not agree to their mandates.
Trai has also mentioned in its official statement that the amendments carried out through the consultation process has left the basic contours of the new regime untouched and that the Broadcasters/Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) will continue to enjoy the flexibility in carrying out their businesses.
The amendments provide appropriate time to stakeholders for implementation, Trai has said.
The broadcasters are required to publish the revised MRPs of a-la-carte channels and bouquets on their website by 15 January 2020, and the DPOs are required to publish revised DRP of a-la-carte channels and bouquets on their website by 30 January 2020.

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