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TRAI notifies amendments to regulatory framework for broadcasting and cable services and releases

Newdelhi:8/7/24:Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today issued Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff (Fourth Amendment) Order, 2024 (1 of 2024);  Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) (Sixth Amendment) Regulations, 2024 (4 of 2024); the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection (Addressable Systems) (Fourth Amendment) Regulations, 2024 (3 of 2024) and also recommendations to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) on ‘Listing of channels in Electronic Programme Guide and Upgrading DD Free Dish platform to an Addressable System’. These amendments, except fa or a few clauses, shall come into force 90 days from the date of their publication in the official gazette.

In consonance with the complete digitization of the cable TV sector, TRAI on 3rd March 2017 notified the Regulatory Framework for Broadcasting and CableServicess. The framework was further tuned to the needs of the broadcasting ecosystem and to address the concerns of stakeholders through amendments issued in 2020 and 2022.

The stakeholders namely, broadcasters, MSOs, DTH operators, and LCOs had taken up further issues for the consideration of the Authority from time to time.

To address such issues, the Authority issued a consultation paper on “Review of Regulatory Framework for Broadcasting and CablServiceses” on 8th August 2023to seeking stakeholders’ comments.

The consultation paper sought comments and suggestions from various stakeholders, on several issues which included Network Capacity Fee (NCFa ), a discount limit on the sum of MRP of a-la-carte channels for fixing MRP of bouquets by the distributors of TV channels (Distribution Platform Operators-DPOsthe ), the equivalence of an HD channel in terms of SD channels for capacity calculations, mandatory FTA News Channels in all packs formed by the DPOs, level playing field with DD Free Dish, an amendment to Reference Interconnect Offer, listing of channels in Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), revenue share between MSO and LCO, carriage fee, removal of channels after the expiry of the existing interconnection agreement, issues related to billing cycle, regulation of platform service channels, review of prescribed charges, consumer corner, the establishment of websites by DPOs, manual of practice, etc.

The Authors the comments of the stakeholders and the discussion held during the open house discussion and noted the level of competition in the market due to the presence of multiple Broadcasters, DPOs (MSO/DTH/HITS/IP, TV), and LCOs. Accordingly, there is a need to provide flexibility to the service providers enabling them to adapt to the dynamic market conditions while at the same time safeguarding the interest of consumers and small players through transparency, accountability, and equitability.

Based on the above considerations, TRAI has notified the amendments to Tariff Order 2017, Interconnection Regulations 2017 and QoS Regulation 2017. The primary objective of these amendments includes the following:

  1. Facilitate growth of the broadcasting sector by reducing regulatory mandates and compliance requirements.
  2. Provide flexibility to the service providers to adopt a market-driven approach while safeguarding the interest of the consumers and small players through transparency, accountability, and equitability.
  3. Promoting ease of doing business by simplifying the regulatory provisions.

The salient features of these amendments include the following:

 A. Tariff Order

  1. Ceilings of Rs 130 for 200 channels and Rs 160 on more than 200 channels have been removed from the Network Capacity Fee (NCF) and are kept under forbearance to make it market-driven as well as equitable. Serviprovidersder may now charge differences based on several channels, different regions, different customer classes,ses, or any combination thereof. To ensure transparency, all such charges have to be mandatorily published by the service providers and communicated to the consumers besides reporting to the TRAI.
  2. DPOs have now been permitted to offdiscountsunt up to 45% while forming their bouquets to enable flexibility for them in forming bouquets and to offer attractive deals to the consumers. Earlier this discount was permitted only up to 15%.
  3. A pay channel available at no subscription fee on the DTH platform of the public service broadcaster has to be declared free-to-air by the broadcaster of the channel for all the addressable distribution platforms to have a level-playing field.
  4. DPOs have been mandated to declare tariffs on their platform services.

   B. Interconnection Regulations

  1. With the proliferation of HD television sets and to encourage the transmission of high-definition content, the distinction between HD and SD channels has been removed for carriage fees. The carriage fee regime was implemented and made technology-neutral by prescribing only a single ceiling for carriage, thereby, providing the DPOs with the option to charge a lesser carriage fee as deemed appropriate.
  2. The above measures are expected to not only simplify the offerings of the service providers to the consumers but also promote the availability of high-quality channels.

 C. QoS Regulations

  1. Charges for services like installation and activation, visiting, relocation, ion, and temporary suspension which were prescribed earlier under regulation have now been kept under forbearance. DPOs have to publish the charges of their services for clarity and transparency to consumers.
  2. Relaxation of certain regulatory compliances for small DPOs.
  3. Duration/Term/Validity of all prepaid subscriptions to be specified in n number of days only for greater clarity to the consumers.
  4. DPOs may display the Distributor Retail Price (DRP) in the electronprogrammme guide (EPG) along with MRP for channels.
  5. DPOs to categorize platform service channels under the genre ‘Platform Services’ in the EPG.
  6. DPOs to display the respective MRP of the platform service channel in the EPG against each platform service to ensure transparency.
  7. DPOs provide an option of activation/deactivation of any platform service.

D. Financial disincentives have been introduced for contravention of provisions of the Tariff Order and certain other provisions of the Interconnection Regulation and QoS Regulation to ensure accountability of service providers.

E.  Service providers to publish all the information related to tariffs and other charges which have now been kept under forbearance, on their websites. Moreover, they need to communicate the tariff and other charges to the subscribers about the plans being subscribed.

Further, the Authority also issued recommendations to MIB on certain issues covered in the consultation process. These issues include de ‘Listing of channels in Electronic Programme Guide’ and the nd transition of ‘DD Free Dish’ to an addressable system. The salient features of these recommendations are as follows:

    A.  Listing of channels in EPG:

While permitting each channel, MIB to seek information from broadcasters about the primary language of each channel unsub-genre of every non-news channel as per Interconnection Regulation 2017 and display the same on the Broadcast Seva portal of MIB to enable DPOs to place the channel at the appropriate place in the EPG for easy navigation by the consumers, by the present regulation.

  B.  Upgradation of DD Free Dish platform to an Addressable System:

  1. To ensure quality of viewing experience, prevent unauthorized re-transmission of television channels to combat piracy, and maintain the record of subscribers, Prasar Bharati to take steps to convert the DD Free Dish platform from a non-addressable system to an addressable system and make a beginning by encrypting the signals of private satellite television channels at DD Free Dish headend before uplinking. Subsequently, all other channels of DD Free Dish may also be transmitted in encrypted form.
  2. Public servibroadcasterster will be provided with the requisite exemptions of TRAI Regulations, once such notification is issued by MIB.
  3. Prasar Bharati may utilize indigenous technologies for Conditional Access Systems (CAS), Subscriber Management Systems (SMS,) and interoperable Set set-top boxes (STBs).
  4. Prasar Bharati should adopt interoperable STBs for DD Free Dish to act as a catalyst for transitioning the entire ecosystem from operator-based STBs to interoperable STBs to empower consumers’ choices. This will eliminate the need for changing STBs every time the service provider is changed.
  5. A roadmap for the transition of DD Free Dish from a non-addressable tan o addressable platform along with authorizing manufacturers and distributors by Prasar Bharati for sales and aftersales service of STBs, has been suggested to MIB.
  6. MIB may direct private DPOs to adopt and implement interoperable STBs.

TRAI in the present amendments, addressed those issues which were covered in the consultation paper dated 8th August 2023. However, during the consultation process for these amendments, certain other issues were also raised by various stakeholders which need to undergo a detailed consultation process for the consideration of TRAI.   These issues and suggestions have been noted and TRAI will come out with a comprehensive consultation paper shortly to address the relevant issues.

For any clarification/information, Shri Deepak Sharma, Advisor (B&CS), TRAI, may be contacted at email ID: [email protected] or Telephone +91-11-20907774.

About Editor in chief

Ashok Palit has completed his graduation from Upendranath College Soro, Balasore and post graduation from Utkal University in Odia Language and literture.. He has also carved out a niche for himself as a scribe of eminence after joining the profession in 1988. He is also an independent media production professional. He brings loads of experience to Advanced Media, Ashok Palit as a cineaste has been active in film criticism for over three decades. As a film society activist, he soared to eminence for his profound commitment to the art film appreciation and aesthetics of cinema. His mode of discourse is often erudite but always lucid and comprehensible marked by a perfect acumen so rare in the field. A film aesthete with an immense fond of critical sensibilities, he wrote about growth and development of odia cinema in New Indian Express, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Asian Age and Screen. He has been working as an Editor for Cine Samaya from 2002-2004.. He had made solid contribution on cinema in many odia Dailies and weekly such as Samaj, Prajatantra, Dharatri, Samaya, Satabadi, and weekly Samaya.

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