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Monday, 10 December 2018 12:48

New Regulatory Framework- much to be desired

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) conducted a half-day Interactive Session on "New Regulatory Framework for Broadcasting & Cable Services" at New Delhi on 19 Nov 2018. 

Dr. R.S. Sharma, Chairman, TRAI while welcoming all the participants highlighted the benefits of the new regulatory framework in broadcasting sector. 

"Transparency, Non-discrimination, Protection of Consumer interest and enabling orderly growth of the sector remain the core philosophy of new framework", said TRAI Chairperson. 

Dr Sharma mentioned that convergence has many positives but some part has disrupted the industry as now one device delivers many services or many devices deliver the same service.  In such a scenario legacy companies will be hit badly. 

However, he assured that he aims at bringing a healthy competition in the industry. He said there are two ways to tackle the problem-

1.Incremental way – to do in steps 

2.Bring comprehensive framework. Quality of service, Interconnection, CAS

TRAI has decided on the second path since the Supreme Court has upheld its Tariff Order and other regulations. 

Sh. H. Pradeep Rao, Member TRAI, Sh. S.K. Gupta Secretary TRAI and other senior officers were present in the interactive session. In his presentation Sh. S.K. Gupta Secretary TRAI focussed on the benefits that the new framework is likely to bring to consumers. Sh. Gupta also shared that the new framework is a result of wide-ranging consultations and balances the interests of various service providers.

Aim of this interactive session was to create awareness amongst various service providers and the consumers at large. The session was attended by various participants representing Consumer Advocacy Groups, Broadcasters, Distribution Platform owners, Local Cable Operators and Industry Associations. 

 A detailed presentation on various important facets of the new Regulatory Framework was made by TRAI officers. The presentations were followed by an interactive Q&A session and discussions. Participants' doubts and concerns were clarified by the TRAI Chairman and other officers.

 However, from the questions fired at the TRAI, all did not appear to be well. In fact, the industry has been waiting for a regulatory mechanism that helps all stakeholders but it has not seen the light of the day. It is only on 30 October, the Supreme Court upheld the TRAI tariff order for broadcasting sector dismissing a petition filed by broadcasters Star India and Vijay Television which challenged the Madras High Court order allowing the TRAI tariff order and interconnect regulation. 

Main problem projected to TRAI was the absence of 15% cap on discount given by broadcasters on their A-La-Carte price when a channel is a part of a bouquet. Without this clause in the Tariff Order, there is bound to be discrimination and favouritism. As seen earlier, broadcasters give high discount as 85 % to their favoured networks setting in dirty completion in the market. 

According to TRAI the Apex Court has only upheld the verdict of the Madras High Court which upheld TRAI’s Tariff Order rejecting the imposition of 15% cap on the discount for bouquets. So the new TRAI tariff order has excluded this. 


Home Cable Network picks faults in Star RIO:

On 6 November 2018, MSO Home Cable Network wrote to the TRAI and in its letter the operator alleged violations of the TRAI-prescribed and notified regulation(s) by Star India. It has complained that the bouquet prices do not follow the 15% cap on discount making them very unreasonable, the MRPs have been kept very high, unaffordable by the common man forcing him to opt for bouquets only.


DTH operators take the Tariff Order back to the Court

However, there are numerous hurdles in implementing the order as the DTH operators reached court against the regulator TRAI despite the Supreme Court verdict. Following this, focus shifted to the Delhi High Court. The direct-to-home operators called the tariff order a “stringent regulation” by TRAI. The plea said that the framework or mechanism laid out by TRAI to package channels and their overall pricing is not sustainable.

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