The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will be reviewing the tariff regime on TV channel subscriptions, introduced 8 months ago. Viewers have complained to the regulatory body that the new rules have caused an increase in their monthly cable/DTH bills and made picking channels they would like to watch a difficult affair.
The new rules were introduced in December 2018 to allow consumers to pay for only what they want to watch, however, TRAI observed that distribution platform operators (cable operators and DTH providers) and broadcaster have been misusing the pricing facilities by "giving huge discounts on bouquets."
"It has been observed, from the tariff declared by the broadcasters under the new regulatory framework, that broadcasters are offering bouquets at a discount of up to 70 per cent of the sum of à la carte rates of pay channels constituting those bouquets," it said in a statement on Friday.
TRAI is now looking at setting a cap on these discounts offered by broadcasters and as an absence of this cap is making the prices of à la carte channels "illusory."
How are these discounted bouquets not beneficial to consumers?
The bouquets (or packs) offered by the cable or DTH operators are often a bunch of channels offered by the same broadcaster (media channel company) clubbed together. While the viewer may want to watch only a few of those offered on the pack and want some additional channels not available with it, they prefer it anyway as these packs are way cheaper than selecting channels they wish to watch individually (à la carte method). This limits the consumers' choice.
Further, those who do opt for the à la carte method are now paying more than they used to before the new tariff rules were introduced.
Looking for consultations
In addition, the TRAI is now seeking views from stakeholders on various issues in the consultation paper, including the ceiling price of channels for inclusion in a bouquet, need for the formation of a bouquet by broadcasters and DPOs, whether the operators should be allowed to charge variable Network Capacity Fee (NCF) for different regions and give discounts on long-term plans.