If you haven't yet managed to inform your DTH or cable provider about your channel selection in line with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI) new regulatory framework, then you are in for a break. The deadline for compliance has now been pushed back to March 31.
TRAI has also asked all distribution platform operators to create a 'best fit plan' for the subscribers who have not exercised their options yet. This will be designed based on consumers' usage pattern, language spoken and popularity of channels.
"The subscribers will be free to change their 'best fit plan' at any date and time on or before March 31, 2019, and distribution platform operators shall convert their 'best fit plan' into the desired (channels) pack within 72 hours from the time choice exercised," the regulator said in a statement, adding that there will be no 'lock-in period' till March 31 for such subscribers.
There are about 100 million cable service TV homes and 67 million DTH TV homes in the country. According to TRAI, approximately 65 per cent of the subscribers of the cable services and 35 per cent subscribers of the DTH services have already exercised the option of selecting the channels of their choice.
The new regulatory framework for broadcasting and cable services, which was supposed to come into effect from the beginning of this month, basically allows consumers to select and pay only for the channels they wish to view, and requires TV broadcasters to disclose the maximum retail price (MRP) of individual channels. TRAI's website (channeltariff.trai.gov.in) has a list of all the prices of all paid channels as well as the channel bouquets that broadcasters have created.
According to data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, 50 per cent of TV viewers only watch around 30 channels while operators offer 300-odd channels. So customers were paying for channels they never watched, and TRAI wants to change that.
However, the regulator has also made it clear that "non-exercise of the option" should not create any inconvenience to the subscribers. Hence, keeping the larger public interest in mind, it has directed all distribution platform operators to create the 'best fit' plans for the dithering subscribers. A subscriber's old plan shall continue either till he/she exercises the a-la-carte option or is migrated to the 'best fit plan', TRAI added.
Furthermore, it has directed distribution platform operators to ensure that monthly payout of the 'best fit plan' does not exceed the outgo under the subscribers' existing tariff plans as far as possible.
Under the new tariff structure, all users will need to subscribe to base channel pack, which will reportedly cost Rs 130 plus 18 per cent of the GST, which comes to Rs 154. This pack will give users access to a total of 100 free-to-air channels. Consumers have complete freedom to choose their desired 100 Standard Definition (SD) channels within the network capacity fee of maximum Rs 130. "The desired channels could be in a-la-carte free-to-air channels or pay channels or bouquet of pay channels or any combination thereof. The choice completely rests with the consumers," said TRAI.
In addition, users can pick any channel that catches their fancy, and pay for only the ones selected. You can add more channels in slabs of 25 channels with an additional network capacity fee of Rs 20 per slab, but taxes will be extra. The best part is that the maximum price of a channel will be capped at Rs 19 per month.
With PTI inputs
(Edited by Sushmita)