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TRAI mulls capping HD channel pricing

NEW DELHI: The New Year will ring in changes for the broadcast industry as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is planning to come out with a consultation paper on the pricing of high-definition (HD) channels.

Presently, the authority is maintaining forbearance as far as HD channel pricing is concerned.

However, the regulator is re-evaluating forbearance as it feels that the HD channels are not very different from the SD channels both in terms of quality and ads played on the former despite the fact that subscribers pay a premium to access these channels.

“TRAI is mulling reviewing forbearance regime on HD channels. Consultation paper on the same will be floated next month,” PTI quotes a TRAI official source.

“TRAI has not found much difference between SD and HD viewing experience. There is also little difference in the number of advertisements between the two,” the source added.

Currently, there are about 40 HD channels in the country.

Despite vehement opposition from broadcasters, TRAI has time and again stepped in to regulate wholesale prices. The authority has so far shied away from capping retail prices leaving that to the market forces.

In 2013, the authority had modified the ‘twin conditions’ in the amended Tariff Order for Digital Addressable Systems (DAS) that regulate the a la carte rate of channels vis-à-vis the bouquet rates at retail level.

As per the ‘twin conditions’, the a la carte rates of pay channels forming part of bouquets shall not exceed two times the wholesale a la carte rate of the channel.

Further, the a la carte rate of a pay channel forming part of a bouquet shall not exceed three times the ascribed value of the pay channel in the bouquet.

The twin conditions were modified as the authority was concerned with poor uptake of a la carte channels at retail level due to prohibitive pricing.