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TRAI notifies amended non-addressable tariff order

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has notified the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Second) Tariff (Fourteenth Amendment) Order, 2015 applicable for non-addressable (analogue cable TV) systems.

The key provisions in the tariff order pertain to the pricing of new channels and channels converted from free-to-air (FTA) to pay, mandatory a la carte offering of channels at wholesale level and twin conditions for non-addressable (analogue cable TV) systems. The existing provisions in this regard have not been changed.

As per the tariff order, if any new pay channel is launched or any FTA channel is converted to pay channel after 1 January 2015, then no ceiling will be applicable if the new pay channel or one converted from FTA channel is provided on a standalone basis, either individually or as part of a new, separate bouquet.

However, the broadcaster will have to declare the genre of the channel and the rates of channels will have to be similar to the rates of similar channels existing as on the date of such launch of new channel or such conversion of FTA channel to a pay channel.

In determining the similarity of rates of similar channels, the following factors shall be taken into account:

(i) the genre and language of the new pay or converted FTA-to-pay channel; and
(ii) the range of prices ascribed to the existing channels of similar genre and language in the price of a bouquet(s) and prices of bouquet(s) that exist.

In case the multi-system operator (MSO) or a cable operator reduces the number of pay channels that were being shown on the date of coming into force of the tariff order, the ceiling will have to be reduced taking into account the rate(s) of the channel(s) removed.

If a commercial subscriber charges his customer for providing TV channels, then they have to enter into an agreement with the broadcaster and the broadcaster may charge the commercial subscriber for providing such a service.

As per the reporting requirement in the tariff order, every broadcaster shall, within seven days from the coming into force of the tariff order, furnish the following information to the authority:

(a) names, genre and language of all FTA channels offered by the broadcaster;
(b) name, a la carte rate, genre and language of each pay channel offered by the broadcaster;
(c) list of all bouquets offered by the broadcaster with prices of each bouquet, indicating the names of all the pay channels and FTA channels contained therein;
(d) revenue share arrangement between owners of channels in the bouquet;
(e) target audience of all the pay channels and FTA channels (National or
regional; if regional, state must be specified);
(f) whether the pay channels are pay channels in whole of the country or only in part of the country (States must be specified if a channel is a pay channel in part of the country);
(g) advertisement revenue for the last three financial years;
(h) any other information relevant to FTA channels, pay channels, a la carte rates and bouquets offered by a broadcaster.

Broadcasters will also have to report 30 days before the introduction or conversion or discontinuation or change of channel/bouquet to the authority.

The MSOs will have to bill the subscriber for the charges due and payable for each month or for such other period for which such charges become payable by the subscriber. The broadcaster, MSO and the cable operator must also maintain the consumer’s entire billing records[Editor1] .

Every broadcaster, MSO and cable operator will have to keep records relating to (a) the dates of increase in charges; (b) the amount of increase; (c) the number of pay channels and FTA channels with their names which were available immediately prior to each such increase or change in charges or changes in the composition of bouquets; (d) the number of pay channels and FTA channels with their names which were available immediately after each such increase or change in charges or changes in the composition of bouquets; (e) the names, addresses and charges pertaining to other service providers to whom broadcasting services or cable services are being provided; (f) any other information which may be relevant for the purposes of this order.

In addition, the authority has clarified that in cases where the operators implement digital addressable system (DAS) before the cut-off dates notified by the government, the regulatory regime pertaining to DAS will apply and that the broadcaster will have to declare the genre of the channels from among the specified genres.

The Supreme Court had recently pronounced its final order in the matter of non-addressable tariff order on 17 September 2014. While disposing of the appeals, the apex court had ordered that status quo will continue till 31 December 2014 while asking TRAI to notify the fresh tariff order immediately after 31 December 2014 after considering the views of the stakeholders.

The authority had recently notified the second instalment of non-addressable tariff hike. On 31 March 2014 it had allowed 27.5 per cent inflation-linked hike in non-addressable tariff in two instalments.