The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Wednesday amended its regulatory framework for cable and broadcasting services with a view to address some of the major concerns for consumers. The new amendments, which come as an update to the DTH framework announced back in March 2017, include additional number of channels for the same Network Capacity Fee (NCF) of Rs. 130 and ceiling on a-la-carte channel pricing. There are also some respite for consumers with multiple TV connections. Further, the regulator has permitted distribution platform operators (DPOs) including cable TV operators and DTH providers to offer discounts on long-term subscriptions.
The amended provisions of the regulatory framework by the TRAI will come into force starting March 1, 2020. However, we are here highlighting all the major benefits that the regulator has designed for end consumers to help you understand what you'll get as a TV viewer through the latest update.
One of the significant changes that the TRAI has amended to its regulatory framework is the ability to let consumers access more number of channels at the same NCF. The regulator previously allowed consumers to avail first 75 pay SD channels and 25 mandatory Doordarshan channels at an NCF of Rs. 130 (excluding taxes). Therefore, the count of maximum number of channels for the same Rs. 130 NCF has been increased from 100 to 200 channels. This means that you'll get the option to avail 100 additional pay channels at the same NCF that you're paying earlier.
It is important to note that the TRAI hasn't provided any details about the NCF in case you want to avail additional channels -- over and above the count of 200 channels. As per the existing framework, operators are charging an NCF of Rs. 20 for every block of 25 paid SD channels.
The regulator has also not clarified whether the 200 channels count would include the mandatory Doordarshan channels. The amendments do include that the channels mandatory by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will not be counted in the number of channels in the NCF. Moreover, it is quite likely that there won't be any changes to the NCF for HD channels. This means operators may continue to consider one HD channel in place for two SD channels for the NCF.
In addition to the basic NCF changes, the TRAI has directed operators to charge a maximum of 40 percent of the declared NCF for the second and additional TV connections. This shows that consumers with multiple TV connections would be able to avail services at limited NCF charge. Operators such as Tata Sky earlier charged full NCF on secondary connections.
A large number of consumers were used to prefer long-term subscription plans to avail some discounts in the past, but the recent changes to the framework affected those discounts. Nevertheless, the TRAI through its latest amendments has permitted cable TV operators and DTH providers to offer discounts on long-term subscriptions that are for six months or more. This would help you pay discounted prices for long-term subscription packs in the future.
Cable TV operators and DTH providers have also been mandated that they won't charge more than Rs. 160 per month (which is basically the base NCF + taxes) for giving all the free-to-air channels available on their portfolios.
For broadcasters and operators, the TRAI has brought a list of changes. These will indirectly impact end consumers as there will be revised bouquets and updated pack rates.
The TRAI is set to bring the new amendments for consumers from March 1, 2020. However, broadcasters are required to publish revised MRP of a-la-carte channels and bouquets on their websites starting January 15. Service providers including cable TV operators and DTH firms have also been directed to publish revised Distributor Retail Price (DRP) of a-la-carte channels and bouquets on their websites from January 30.