TRAI starts implementing new tariff structure for TV channels

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has started implementing the tariff order issued last year with effect from today.

The move follows the refusal of the Madras High Court to strike down the TRAI tariff orders issued early last year.

“Having complied with the judicial mandates in the matter, the (tariff orders).. as upheld by the Hon’ble Madras High Court and the..Quality of Service and Consumer Protection Regulations, 2017 come into effect from 3rd July 2018,” the regulator said.

The Madras High Court has upheld most of the new rules, except the curbs placed on ‘bulk’ discounts for channel packages, in its rulings earlier this year.

The new tariff order will totally change the way TV channels are consumed in the country.

While so far, consumption was happening largely in the form of packs, the new tariff structure will make it easier for consumers to buy TV channels individually.

The TRAI has given the following new time table for satellite, cable and channel companies.

Broadcasters have to declare an MRP for their channels in 60 days.

DTH and cable companies have to declare their tariff structure — including the base charge as well as the end-user price of each channel, in 180 days.

Broadcasters also have to update their interconnect offer to conform with the new regime within 60 days, and new interconnection agreements between broadcasters (channel owners) and distributors (DTH and cable companies) must be completed within 150 days, TRAI added.

Last year, DTH companies Tata Sky and Bharti Airtel, and broadcaster Star India had challenged the new tariff rules issued by the TRAI.

However, their challenges have been mostly denied about two months ago by the Madras High Court. That said, they can approach the Supreme Court at any time.

If the Supreme Court issues a stay on the implementation, the whole time-line will have to be revised again.

It is also likely for the TRAI to approach the Supreme Court to get reinstatement of the ‘85% rule’. According to the 85% rule, channel operators and DTH companies cannot offer a discount of more than 15% when channels are offered as part of a package, compared to when they are offered individually.