TRAI seeks permission from SC to notify proposed tariff order

Broadcast regulator TRAI has requested the Supreme Court to allow it to notify its proposed Tariff Order fixing a cap of Rs 250 monthly cable charges in the country except pockets where conditional access system (CAS) is implemented.

New Delhi: Broadcast regulator TRAI has requested the Supreme Court to allow it to notify its proposed Tariff Order fixing a cap of Rs 250 monthly cable charges in the country except pockets where conditional access system (CAS) is implemented.
     
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has filed an application before the apex court seeking its permission to notify proposed Broadcasting and Cable Services Tariff Order, 2010.
     
Broadcasters including Sony Group, Star India, Zee Turner and multi-system operators (MSOs) have opposed TRAI's proposal before the Supreme Court and were asked to file their affidavits last year.
     
Filing a draft regulation before the apex court on July 22, 2010 , TRAI proposed to cap the monthly charges at Rs 250 across the country, except for pockets where conditional access system (CAS) was implemented.
     
In an affidavit to the Court, TRAI proposed to divide cable services into three pricing slabs.
     
The first one was to have a monthly charge of Rs 100 for a minimum of 30 free-to-air (FTA) channels, including the mandatory Doordarshan channels.
     
For the second basic package (which includes Doordarshan channels) that would include up to 20 pay channels, the monthly bill was to be fixed at Rs 200.
     
For the basic package with more than 20 pay channels, the subscribers would have to pay Rs 250 per month.
     
Earlier, there were no limits on the number of FTA channels, but the monthly charge was fixed at Rs 83, while a maximum of Rs 260 was fixed for a basic package plus pay channels.
     
As per industry estimates, there are at present 300 FTAs and 125 pay channels in the country.
     
On the issue of allowing multi-system operators (MSOs) and cable operators to choose channels from broadcasters on a-la-carte basis, TRAI said it would not be possible in non- CAS regulated areas, where feeds were still given in the analog mode.
     
As far as the carriage fees charged by MSOs and local cable operators from broadcasters for airing their channels on their networks, TRAI said it was not feasible to place any cap on carriage and placement fees and it should be left to the players.
     
TRAI's affidavit came after the Apex Court had directed it to formulate a comprehensive pricing mechanism after consulting various stakeholders.

In the affidavit, the regulator has also submitted draft copy of the proposed Broadcasting and Cable Services Tariff Order, 2010, which will be notified after the apex court gives its nod.
     
Upholding the orders of sectoral tribunal TDSAT, the Supreme Court had on May 13, 2009, directed the regulator to study the proposal afresh and issue a comprehensive order on the pricing issue in non-CAS areas of the country.
     
Later, on the request of the TRAI, the Apex Court had granted six months extra time in January and directed it to file its report by June 30, 2010.

PTI

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