Consultation on TV tariffs transparent, criticism is ridiculous: RS Sharma, Trai Chief

Trai initiated a review of the new regulatory framework for the broadcasting sector on August 16. It issued a consultation paper seeking stakeholders’ responses on 30 questions covering aspects related to the new tariff order.

MUMBAI: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman RS Sharma described criticism of the consultation process on the new broadcast tariff framework, which is currently underway, as “ridiculous” and “arbitrary.”

“We invited comments and counter comments; we organised an open house discussion and took every stakeholders’ view,” Sharma told ET. “A transparent process like this should not be criticised.”

The regulator is in the process of finalising its stance on the issue, he said. Sharma said the authority issued a consultation paper in August as part of this transparent process. Trai initiated a review of the new regulatory framework for the broadcasting sector on August 16. It issued a consultation paper seeking stakeholders’ responses on 30 questions covering aspects related to the new tariff order that came into force on February 1. Broadcasters questioned Trai’s intentions and priorities and timing of the review.


Sharma clarified that the motive behind the consultation paper was not to review the entire framework, but iron out wrinkles.

“We are looking at some aspects so as to fine-tune the framework for better transparency,” Sharma said. “Our main motive is to put the consumer in the centre. She should be empowered and allowed to exercise her option of choice. Unlike what the industry thinks, we are not against anyone. We have allowed enough freedom to broadcasters and distribution platform operators.”

He wanted to dispel misconceptions in the industry that Trai wanted consumers to pay less or that it’s only in favour of a-la-carte channels and against bouquets.
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“We as regulators are not in favour or against anyone,” he said. “We want to bring transparency to the entire system. If consumers want to select all channels, they will pay more. If they select less, they will pay less. My only point is, let the consumer decide. Don’t confuse the consumer by giving false options.” Trai had alleged broadcasters have misused the flexibility on bouquet discounts to throttle market discovery of channel prices. In its consultation paper, Trai had said that broadcasters are offering bouquets at a discount of up to 70% of the sum of a-la-carte rates of pay channels constituting those groupings.

Sharma added that the regulator will soon finalise its position and decide on whether changes, if at all, need to be made.

Trai is in the final stages of formulating its response on reviewing television audience measurement and ratings, another suo motu paper floated by the authority in December last year, after stakeholders raised “several concerns.” These related to “neutrality and reliability” of the existing rating system BARC India.

The regulator has also started working on new policy guidelines for direct-to-home (DTH) operators, after being called upon to do so by the information and broadcasting ministry. The 10-year licences of all the DTH players have expired and, in the absence of a policy framework, the government has been provisionally extending them.
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