NEW DELHI: Tevision viewers will be able to get a minimum 100 free-to-air (FTA) channels at a maximum retail price of Rs 100, or pay a minimum Rs 150 per month for a la carte choice that may include pay as well as FTA channels.
This has been specified in the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Fourth) (Addressable Systems ) Tariff (first amendment) Order 2012, issued exactly a month after its own announced date of 31 March by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).


  Basic Service Tier
According to the regulatory framework for Digitalised Cable TV brought out by Trai "to safeguard consumers' interests", cable operators will have to mandatorily offer a Basic Service Tier (BST) to viewers throughout the country that will consist of 100 FTA channels including 18 mandatory Doordarshan channels and the Lok Sabha channel.
Under the order, cable operators and multi-system-operators (MSOs) have to ensure that there are a minimum of five channels of different genres. The genres which Trai has named are General Entertainment Channels (GECs) in English, Hindi, Regional, Music, News, Movies, Sports, Kids Infotainment, and lifestyle.
"The BST shall be mandatorily offered by the cable operator. However, it will be optional for the consumer to subscribe," Trai said. Consumers can choose a la carte FTA channels also.
The broadcast sector regulator also said that in case customers choose some option beyond the BST which includes some pay channels, a minimum monthly price up to Rs 150 would be paid. "If the total value of the channels/ bouquets opted by the subscriber exceeds Rs 150, only then actual subscription charges has to be paid," Trai said.
Trai has also issued the The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) Interconnection (Digital Addressable Cable Television Systems) Regulations 2012. While the Tariff Order has been issued as an amendment to the existing Tariff Order for addressable systems, dated 21 July 2010, the Interconnection Regulation is comprehensive one for the Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems.
These rules will come into force along with the digitisation of the cable sector for which the government has already set up a deadline of 30 June this year in the four metros and December 2014 for the entire country.
Trai's latest tariff order has also laid down rules on the basis of which channels and bouquets will be priced.
All channels will have to be made available individually or on an a la carte basis that will ensure viewers will have the choice to take only the channels they want.
Trai has mandated that the rate of a single channel should not exceed three times the average channel rate of the bouquet. So, if on an average, a channel has been priced at Rs 3 by the cable operator, he cannot charge more than Rs 9 per channel in that bouquet.

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