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Broadcaster and cable operators label charges over new tariff order

The Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) in a statement on Sunday charged All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) members of making “inaccurate remarks regarding the new price regime” and invoking “consumer sentiment”. (Representational image)
Broadcasters and local cable/multi-system operators on Sunday exchanged barbs over the New Tariff Order (NTO), which came into force in February 2023.

Three leading broadcasters, Disney Star, Zee Entertainment Enterprises and Sony Pictures Networks India Ltd, have already stopped providing feed to cable operators which have not signed fresh agreements with increased prices under the New Tariff Order (NTO) 3.0.

The Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) in a statement on Sunday charged All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) members of making “inaccurate remarks regarding the new price regime” and invoking “consumer sentiment”.

AIDCF, the apex body of digital cable television players, hit back, alleging that broadcasters have “significantly increased their channel prices and bouquet prices by approximately 18 – 35 per cent” which will definitely affect the consumer price.

“Average price increase across different areas of the country expected to be in the range of Rs 30 to Rs100 per month depending on the channels/bouquets opted by the consumer,” said AIDCF statement adding it “will result in a cost of close to Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 8,000 crore per annum to consumers which will largely benefit the broadcasters”.

Earlier IBDF, a body which represents the broadcasters and digital streaming platforms, said under the new pricing regime, the subscriber has the flexibility of choice on whether to pick one channel or a bouquet of channels.

The maximum monthly subscription fee for a channel to be included in a bouquet is Rs 19/- which is significantly lesser than the price of essentials in the country.

“The attempt of the AIDCF to invoke consumer sentiment on the price increase is belied by their attempt to increase that portion of the consumer bill that goes only to the AIDCF members, i.e. Network Capacity Fees (NCF),” it said.

Three leading broadcasters – Disney-Star, Sony and Zee – have switched off their channels from Saturday morning to the cable operators, which have not signed fresh agreements with increased prices under the New Tariff Order (NTO).

Earlier, the broadcasters issued notices on February 15 to cable operators/Multi System Operators to sign the new Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) for New Tariff Order (NTO) 3.0 issued by the sectoral regulator TRAI.

However, cable service providers did not heed it leading to the disconnection of signals by the broadcasters.

“Nearly 45 million households are affected who are unable to see the channels from these broadcasters,” it said adding “Now, broadcasters are urging consumers to go through the inconvenience of changing their service provider for their own limited benefit.” However IBDF said NTO 3.0 was brought by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) after an extensive consultative process.

“AIDCF and its members also participated in the consultative process and were clearly aware of the timelines prescribed by TRAI. They understood that the law mandates that the TV channels could only be provisioned under a signed interconnect agreement,” it said.

As of today, all DTH providers and most of the cable operators, including some AIDCF members, have implemented the amended regulatory framework.

“Consequently, more than 90 per cent of the DPOs have signed the revised interconnect agreement issued by the broadcasters, thereby choosing to comply with the law and ensuring that the service is not disrupted for the majority of the subscribers,” IBDF said in its statement.

It further said the broadcasters are under “no legal obligation to provide” any additional opportunity to the AIDCF members, they offered such DPOs additional 48 hours to sign the revised interconnect agreement in order to continue receiving TV signals without interruption, keeping in mind the interest of the subscribers.

“The broadcasters, therefore, had no legal recourse but to disconnect TV services from the DPOs that refused to comply with the regulatory framework,” it said.

While AIDCF said the association and MSOs have challenged NTO 3.0 before the High court of Kerala requesting stay on this TRAI amendment.

“Various LCO associations have also filed their requested to put a stay on this TRAI amendment,” it added. PTI

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